Some two weeks removed from the death of forward Grant Gilbertson, Peninsula Panthers owner and general manager Pete Zubersky said he sees some smiles returning to the faces of players, both at practices and in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) action.
“(That) was nice to see,” he said. “Our guys said the words that they wanted to dedicate the season to Grant but I think the meaning of those words finally sunk in on Friday.”
That is when the Panthers beat the visiting Lake Cowichan Kraken 8-1 on home ice at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre. Leading by one goal after the first period, the Panthers exploded for seven goals in the second frame as seven different Panthers scored a goal.
“The coaching staff took their foot off the gas in the final period and just allowed the kids room to breath and room to laugh,” said Zubersky. “They had a ball.”
Sunday’s 4-2 road victory against Saanich Predators was less lop-sided. Goals by Riley Braun, Sterling Lyon, David Moody and Payton Braun gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead halfway through the second period, but the Predators did not readily concede the contest and put two on the board in the final frame.
“(The) Predators battled for 60 minutes and made a game of it,” said Zubersky.” Their rink is small and we struggle in that barn but we did enough to win.”
If the Panthers’ forward lines spread around scoring over the weekend, so did their goaltending tandem of Brad Kelly and Ashton Lukan. Kelly stopped 25 out of 26 shots faced against the Kraken, while Lukan stopped 26 out of 28 shots against the Predators.
The Panthers now find themselves one point behind the Victoria Cougars in the South Division and three points behind the Campbell Rivers in the overall standings. The Panthers return to action on Jan. 21 when they will host the Saanich Predators at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. They will round out January with a road game against the Victoria Cougars on Sunday, Jan. 23 before hosting the Westshore Wolves on Jan. 28.
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