The roster of the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League looks more like a M.A.S.H. unit than a hockey team. A gutsy effort coupled with some help from the farm enabled them to take the Campbell River Storm into overtime before coming out on the short end of a 5-4 score.
Seven players were out with injuries including concussions, broken legs, a broken foot, a separated shoulder and a bad back.
The club called up affiliated players – Cole Glover, Zack Smith, Kyle Richardson, Tomas Strocel and Eric McClennan – from major midget, Peninsula midget and Juan de Fuca midget levels, and all five performed admirably.
Owner Pete Zubersky said the team is banged up as much as any team he has seen, but wanted to focus on the youngsters added for the evening.
“They all really played well and played quality minutes,” he said.
“Glover and Smith are going to be players. I was really impressed with the pair up front. And Richardson on the back end did not look out of place at all. He is a big kid and can skate and if he decides to take this game seriously, I believe he could really do something. I want to see all five of them again.”
It was Glover playing in his first junior game who opened the scoring for the Panthers early in the first frame, followed by Panthers sniper Joe Densmore, who on a pretty play gave the club a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. And when Densmore potted his second marker midway through the second period giving the home squad a comfortable 3-0 lead, it looked as though the game was sealed. But the Storm stormed back with three quick goals before the second period expired.
Dane Feeney put the Storm ahead midway through the third, but a blast from the Panthers’ Josh Bloomenthal with less three minutes left in regulation put the game into the extra frame. The Panthers had numerous chances, the best being by Smith, a smooth-skating 16-year-old who impressed in his junior debut. Smith sat on the back door and was alone in the first minute of the extra frame, but Campbell River Storm goalie Nick Babich snaked out his left pad to rob the young forward of his chance for glory. The Storm cleared their zone and seconds later, Tyson Rennie found nothing but twine, giving the visitors the exciting overtime win.
The Panthers are back at home at the Panorama Recreation Centre on Friday, Feb. 10 when they host the Victoria Cougars, who are on a 12-game winning streak, for a 7:30 p.m. affair.
If the fallen soldiers aren’t repaired by then, the Panthers will be looking to bring in fresh troops again.