The Peninsula Panthers lost the opening game of the playoff series against the Victoria Cougars despite leading by two goals.
A power-play goal by Skyler Diamond-Burchuk and an even-strength goal by Drew Coughlin gave the Panthers a two-goal cushion about halfway through the second period of Sunday’s matinee at Archie Browning Arena. But the Panthers wasted these strong 25 minutes against the league’s best team, with the Cougars quick to pounce. Two unanswered goals in the second period tied the game heading into the third period, where the Cougars scored three more with the third goal into the Panthers’ empty net.
“The effort in the final half of the game was certainly nothing to write home about,” said Pete Zubersky, the Panthers’ general manager. “I was actually astounded that [head coach Brad Tippett] had to go in the room to ask for more from this group. We could win games in September or December or even some in February without maximum effort, but we are now down to the best four teams in the [Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League] and the only way we are going to win games at this time of year is by getting everyone to give maximum effort. We did not have that on Sunday.”
The Cougars, which finished first in the league with 83 points, out-shot the Panthers by 43 to 22 shots, with the second period especially lopsided as the Panthers managed just four shots to the Cougars’ 25.
Spencer Golden (two goals) and Zach Guerra (one goal, one assist) led the Cougars with two points on the scoring sheet, while Andrew Rocha took the loss for the Panthers in net.
Sunday’s game came less than 48 hours after the Panthers advanced to the finale of the VIJHL’s South Division with a 3-2 victory over the Westshore Wolves. That victory gave them a 4-1 series victory. The Victoria Cougars advanced to the finale after sweeping the Saanich Braves.
The Panthers are back at the Archie Browning Arena on Wednesday night and will then be back to the confines of the Panorama Recreation Centre on Friday and Saturday evenings for Games 3 and 4. The puck drops both nights at 7:30 pm.