Captain Riley Braun broke a third-period tie with less than four minutes left as the Peninsula Panthers came from behind to win the opening game of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League final 2-1 against the Oceanside Generals.
Braun’s goal at 16:37 of the third period in front of 900-plus fans at Oceanside Place in Parksville was his eighth of the playoffs and made him the leading post-season scorer with 25 points. The winning goal came some 10 minutes after teammate Tanner Banks equalized the game’s opening goal by Carter Johnson of the Generals in the second period.
Braun tallied on the power play, after Generals captain Brett Arnet was penalized for checking from behind and given a game misconduct. The Panthers capitalized after just 18 seconds, with Braun finishing off a passing play from Logan Speirs and Kyle Brown by roofing a shot at close range past Generals goalie Ashton Sadauskas.
The home team made a desperate effort with just over a minute left to play, pulling Sadauskas for an extra attacker, but were unable to equalize.
Despite trailing at one stage, the Panthers outshot their hosts 40-31, with Brady Kelly stopping all but one to improve his playoff record to two wins and one loss in four playoff appearances.
The game was closely contested from the beginning with the Panthers holding a slight edge offensively in forcing the Generals to fight off a strong forechecking game for most of the night.
The best-of-seven series shifts for game 2 to North Saanich this Friday (March 25), where the Panthers host the Generals at Panorama Recreation Centre with the puck set to drop at 7:30 p.m. Game 3 happens Sunday in Parksville (7 p.m.), followed by game 4 back at Panorama on Monday night (7:30 p.m.).
- with files from Michael Briones
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