The Peninsula Panthers will have a second opportunity to claim the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) crown in front of their home fans Friday night when they host the Oceanside Generals in Game 6 at North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
But the fact the Panthers are back for the third and final home game of the finals also means they have dropped their second match in as many games, having lost 7-4 Wednesday night in Parksville.
After winning the first three games of the series, the Panthers lost 5-2 Monday night on home ice as the Generals staved off elimination, sending the series back to Parksville for Game 5.
The hosts then used that opportunity to force Game 6, even after the Panthers had jumped out to an early two-goal lead.
“Our group was clearly disappointed after the game last night – a game that we felt we could’ve won,” said Pete Zubersky, owner and general manager. “After jumping out to a two-nothing lead, we let it slip away and so we are back here at Panorama Friday night. As strange as it might seem now, we are probably calmer than we have been all series long.”
Zubersky said he felt Wednesday’s loss was self-inflicted. “We worked hard but we just made some blunders that in the end cost us the game.”
The Panthers have been surrendering multiple goals in quick succession during the last two games.
Monday night, they had allowed the Generals to build a 3-0 lead by giving up two goals in three minutes.
Wednesday night, the Generals scored two goals in little more than three minutes to tie the game in the second period. Hunter Jensen restored the Panthers’ lead halfway through the second period, but it was short-lived as the Generals scored two goals in less than two minutes to tie the game, then lead it into the third period. Ryan Grambert then levelled for the Panthers less than seven minutes into the third period, which then tilted very much in favour of the hosts, who for the third straight game played in front of 900-plus fans.
They saw Greyson Weme score a clean hat-trick with goals at 9:58, 13:29 and 15:23 of the third period as the Generals ran away with the game.
Zubersky, for his part, is not too concerned about this trend. “Strangely enough, this does not concern me,” he said. “We have to clean up some mistakes before Friday and we will. And if we do clean these mistakes up, goals against us will drop dramatically. We allowed three goals in total in the first three games and have allowed 12 goals in the past two games. But we can stop the bleeding and we all believe that.”
Zubersky said he believes Friday’s game will be memorable. “I think that Friday night will be special and I do believe we will have a capacity crowd to see what will be a game that will be very meaningful to both squads,” he said.
For the Panthers, it will be a chance to clinch the VIJHL crown, for the Generals, it will be a chance to force Game 7, which would take place Monday, April 7 at 7:00 p.m. in Parksville.
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