The Campbell River Storm, Nanaimo Buccaneers, Peninsula Panthers, and Victoria Cougars have all made it to round two of the 2016 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Because there were no upsets in the previous round, both the number one and number two seeds from both the North and South Island Divisions will square off against each other.
After sweeping the Kerry Park Islanders in four straight games, the Cougars now set their sights on yet another South Island Division title — this time against an up and coming Panthers squad. It took six games for Peninsula to dispose of the Westshore Wolves.
Victoria and the Panthers meet for the second time in the last three years. The Cougars defeated Peninsula four games to two in the 2014 VIJHL championship series.
Spencer Loverock, the heart and soul of the Panthers, and Ryan Carson and John Kretzschmar of Victoria, are the only remaining players from that six-game battle.
These two clubs met eight times during the regular season with the Cougars going 6-2-0-0 against Peninsula and the Panthers posting a 2-5-0-1 mark versus Victoria. Three of those games were decided by one goal.
In the season series, Cody Hodges was the Cougars’ leading scorer after posting six goals and seven assists. VIJHL rookie of the year winner Cam Thompson had four goals and nine points to lead the Panthers in head-to-head scoring.
Victoria was dominant in the opening round against the Islanders, scoring 21 times while yielding only four goals.
It will be a battle of youth versus experience when the two teams face off.
Victoria has a huge edge over the Panthers when it comes to experience.
Seven players on the Cougars roster have played 12 playoff games or more, including Carson (31), Kretzschmar (27), Brett Lervold (27), Nathan Looysen (21), Lane Vandewetering (16), Ryan Buse (15) and Austin Wilk (14).
Under head coach Mark Van Helvoirt, the Cougars have been among the VIJHL’s elite during his eight-year tenure — winning four league championships during that span.
The Cougars’ series versus the Panthers kicks off Thursday, March 10 at the Archie Browning Sports Centre.