NORTH SAANICH — The Peninsula Panthers are getting down to crunch time as they make ready for the suddenly red hot Saanich Braves on Friday night at the Panorama Recreation Centre.
The Comox Valley Glacier Kings were eliminated from the playoff picture with a 9-2 loss at the hands of the Kerry Park Islanders on Saturday evening and with a playoff spot secured, the Panthers are looking to improve on their seeding with 11 games remaining on the regular season slate.
“We are in a fight with Victoria, Saanich, Westshore, Kerry Park and Oceanside in terms of playoff positioning and we are hoping to be in the middle of that group when the regular season comes to a close,” said General Manager Pete Zubersky. “Nanaimo and Campbell River look like they are going to battle for the top two spots and so we would like to pass a couple in our group in order to miss those two teams in the first round.
“Games from here on in are going to be tough and I think we need to win six or seven the rest of the way to secure a favourable spot in the standings.”
The Panthers were bounced by the Victoria Cougars by a 4-1 count in Esquimalt on Thursday night. However, they held serve at home on Friday when they knocked off the visiting Westshore Wolves, 4-3. Riley Braun had two goals in the win while Tanner Wort and Shota Yamamoto added singles. Yamamoto potted the winner with less than four minutes remaining to send the Wolves packing for their eighth straight defeat. Goaltender Chris Akerman picked up the win between the pipes.
After welcoming in the Braves on Friday, the Panthers will head to Nanaimo on Saturday evening to face the VIJHL-leading Nanaimo Buccaneers.
“We are coming up against a couple of the better teams in the League but our guys can play with anyone at this point in the season,” quipped Zubersky. “We need to come out of the weekend with points and if we do, we will be in good shape. The teams that are in a battle for playoff positioning will all beat up on each other so we just have to control what we can control. “
The puck drops Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Panorama Recreation Centre’s Arena B.