The Peninsula Panthers remain undefeated after earning their eighth straight win.
The defending Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) champions defeated the Port Alberni Bombers with a 3-1 victory Friday night at the Panorama Recreation Center in North Saanich.
The Panthers’ strong start naturally excites owner and general manager Pete Zubersky. But he also tries to maintain perspective. “With an amazing start to the season at 8-0, I still believe it’s never as good as it looks, and when times are bad and it’s hard to find a win, things are never as bad as they seem,” he said. said.
While Zubersky credited the Panthers’ goalie and defense for their strong start, they also have more in them. “We get enough points to win. I think we still have to work as hard as necessary. Hard work is a skill and it becomes a habit. We no longer sneak into any of the clubs we play at. We are the defending champions of the VIJHL and are now the only undefeated team in our league.
The Panthers’ first line drove in all the runs Friday night. Payton Braun – last year’s rookie of the year – broke the tie 1-1 with his fourth goal of the season less than four minutes into the third period. Linemate Tanner Banks scored the game’s first goal midway through the second period and added an insurance marker within eight minutes. Banks also had an assist on Braun’s goal while Ryan Grambart assisted on all three goals.
Head coach Chris Driebergen doesn’t ignore who’s scoring for the Panthers right now. “Secondary scoring is lacking (and) we’ll be looking to address that in training this week,” he said. Overall, he echoed Zubersky’s comments about the need for greater consistency.
Friday’s home win came after the Panthers beat the Kerry Park Islanders on Tuesday night on the road with the front row in the lead once again as Grambart scored twice in the 2-1 win.
Mason Kelly saved 26 of 27 to tie his twin brother Brady with four wins.
The Panthers are back in action Friday when they host the Victoria Cougars at the Panorama Recreation Center with the puck drop at 7:30 p.m. They next face Westshore Wolves on the road on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Zubersky sees Friday’s home game against the Cougars as a real test for his team. “We have a number of injuries to deal with right now and a few of our kids are out of town on other commitments,” he said.
The Panthers’ injured list includes their most recent acquisition, 20-year-old defenseman Andrew Braun, captain of the Saanich Predators. Braun injured his knee in Friday’s game and the Panthers will find out later this week if he’s able to play Friday.
Staff movements are already underway. “We’ll bring in at least two or three forwards from the PMHA Midget team to help out on Friday. I love when our guys are challenged, we will be on Friday.
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