The Peninsula Panthers held off a furious comeback from the Victoria Cougars to win on the road, then staged a last-second comeback themselves to beat the Westshore Wolves in overtime at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action.
“We could not have asked for more from all of our players in the last three weeks,” said Brad Tippett, head coach after the Panthers had pushed their winning streak to seven games, despite a growing list of injuries that has been especially devasting on the blue line. “I have been in the game for a long time. Never have I seen one team experience the number and severity of injuries we have incurred to date.”
But problems for some players have turned into opportunities for others, he added.
“We have some younger players who have taken full advantage of the chance to play in roles they likely would not have seen,” said Tippett. “We will be a better team in the long run. These adversities have forced us to play with a pursuit of perfection. Players are focusing 100 per cent on just doing their own jobs 100 per cent of the time (like) looking after little details, putting their bodies on the line to make a play or get in the shooting lane or screening the goalie.”
In short, individual actions are adding up to something greater than the sum of the parts. Friday night’s game was proof of the team’s resiliency in recent weeks.
Trailing by one goal late in the third period, Grant Gilbertson and Riley Braun assisted on Payton Braun’s tying goal with one second left in the game. Logan Speirs then scored his 20th goal of the season 40 seconds into the first overtime to give the Panthers a 5-4 victory over the Westshore Wolves.
The Panthers had beaten the Victoria Cougars 4-3 Thursday night after jumping out to a 3-0 lead after two periods. But two goals scored in less than four minutes during the third period left the outcome in doubt until the final horn as the Cougars outshot the visiting Panthers 16-3. But Brad Kelly showed good form in net, stopping 25 out of 28 shots. The Panthers’ powerplay also clicked against the Cougars, scoring three times on five tries.
“We are getting key saves at key times,” said Tippett. “Special teams are executing at critical times.”
On the other hand, the Panthers have stayed out of the box with the second-lowest number of penalties in minutes (305) while outshooting their opponents in every game but two. Not surprisingly, three out of four leading scorers wear the Panthers’ jersey with Riley Braun leading the league with 23 goals and 40 assists, ahead of Speirs with 20 goals and 33 assists.
“We have every forward who has played 10 or more games with at least one goal,” said Tippett in pointing to team depth. “The comradery the players share is something you can feel but not touch. A very tight-knit group who cheer for each other. A very special group of players indeed.”
They will try to extend their winning streak to eight games on Friday when they host the Oceanside Generals at Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
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