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JUNIOR B: Peninsula completes unthinkable comeback to win Island championship

800 people gather in Esquimalt to witness Peninsula Panthers win 2011 Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy
Cougars vs Panthers game 7
Victoria Cougars' forward Trevor McNeil ended his junior career as his team's MVP in the VIJHL finals. The Peninsula Panthers ousted the Cougars in Game 7 to win the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy on Sunday

The Peninsula Panthers pulled off the rarest of feats in sports to win the Island championship.

On Sunday afternoon at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, the Panthers did what many deem un-doable and completed a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to win their fourth straight game, 5-2 over the Victoria Cougars.

Peninsula are going to the Cyclone Taylor Cup B.C. championship in Fernie, March 31 to April 3. It’s the second consecutive Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy for the Panthers as the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League champions. Yet the trophy was all but engraved with the Victoria Cougars’ name on it exactly one week earlier.

“When we went down 3-0 in the series (on March 13) the guys just believed and we stuck to our system,” said Panthers’ captain and finals co-MVP Evan Campbell.

By the time game 7 started, the Panthers were used to playing with their backs against the wall and it became an advantage, he added.

“Obviously you have to hand it to (Panthers’ coach Jackson Penney). I’ve never been a part of a team this great before.”

The Panthers took advantage early with a four-goal outburst from Campbell, Joe Densmore, Ryan Bradley and Dane Gibson, all in the first period.

Victoria eventually responded in the second, getting an unassisted goal from Trevor McNeil. But Densmore scored again in the third to put the game out of reach.

“I think (Peninsula’s) talent was sleeping in the first three games and we caught them off guard,” Cougars coach Mark Van Helvoirt said.

“Scoring four goals in the first period, that’s the mental part of the game you can’t teach,” said Penney, who is also the team owner with his wife Charity.

“Our players did a tremendous job. We played well in the first three games, we just didn’t capitalize. We needed to get that first win.”

Cougars forward McNeil was named the other MVP.

Van Helvoirt said his team just ran out of time.

“We played well, it was a hard-fought series and I’m proud of my guys,” he said.

“(Sunday) was one of the best hockey games I’ve been a part of in this league and I’ve been around it for a long time.”

Trophy notes

Nick Babich replaced Peninsula goalie Brady Berisoff partway through game three and finished the series, winning the next four games.

The trophy is named for Brent Patterson, who played four seasons with the Saanich Braves. He died from a heart attack during the 1975 provincial championships.