The Peninsula Panthers finished Thanksgiving weekend on a winning note, beating the Saanich Predators 6-3 at Panorama Recreation Centre in rare Monday matinee.
But the North Saanich-based Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League team will likely rue several missed opportunities to come away with more points over the past week.
League-leading scorer Riley Braun scored once and assisted on three goals in Monday’s win, while teammate Denver Maloney scored twice and added two assists.
The Panthers (5-6-0-2) emerged from the weekend with 12 points, good for third place in the South Division after playing four games in six days.
That swing started in Port Alberni on Oct. 6, a game in which the Panthers led 3-1 after the first period, but gave up three goals in the third to lose 4-3.
Last Friday at home, the Panthers found themselves in a back-and-forth affair with Comox Valley and overcame a one-goal deficit in the third to push the game to overtime. The extra time did not settle the contest, and the Glacier Kings secured the second point by winning the shootout 1-0 thanks to goaltender Ryder Lally, who stopped all four Panthers attempts.
The teams met again the next night in Courtenay. Overcoming what Panthers’ GM Pete Zubersky called “bus legs” during the early phases of the game, the Panthers controlled the rest of it, only to run into strong goaltending from Lally once more.
“Our kids worked their tails off, but we ran into a hot goaltender and he was the story. In the end he hung a 2-1 loss on us,” Zubersky said.
Monday’s outcome was a conciliatory note in terms of results, after the Panthers played well for most of the preceding three games.
“We always stress that doing our best and getting better every day is what is important,” said head coach Brad Tippett. “I told the players the coaches would rather lose a game we played well in, versus sneaking out a game we were not at our best. Well, that prophecy came true. We had 40 outstanding minutes in Port Alberni on Wednesday, we have 50 great minutes on Friday and Saturday and we came out with one point out of six.”
What Tippett called “little” but “fatal” mistakes are sabotaging long stretches of solid effort and team play for the Panthers, who are also dealing with injuries, suspensions and a recent retirement. These developments have provided excellent opportunities for other players to step forward into bigger roles, Tippett said.
“Theo St-Denis is playing with a lot of confidence, and in key situations Owen Cox is looking like the power forward we expected and Julien Philips is making his presence known on the ice.”
For Zubersky, the recent results shows the competitiveness of the league.
“I have never seen this league so tight in 20 years,” he said. “(So) we are looking to put some wins on the board in the next several weeks to separate ourselves from a bunch of other teams.”
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