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Victoria Cougars dampen Panthers’ lofty expectation for VIJHL season start

Cougars post 9-3, 4-1 wins over the Panthers in opening junior B hockey weekend
Peninsula defenceman Matthew Seale finds himself sandwiched between Victoria Cougars players during the Panthers 4-1 loss Friday in North Saanich. The Cougars won the teams’ season opener 9-3 the night before in Esquimalt. (Photo by Gordon Lee)

The Peninsula Panthers opened their 2021-22 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season with two losses against the Victoria Cougars, including a 4-1 defeat in their home opener Friday.

At North Saanich’s Panorama Recreation Centre, the Panthers found themselves down 3-0 after 20 minutes and 4-0 with less than five minutes left in the second period. Matthew Seale broke the Cougars’ shutout bid with a Peninsula goal before the buzzer. The teams went scoreless in the third.

On Thursday in Esquimalt, the season was less than 13 minutes old when the Panthers found themselves down four goals against the Cougars. Goals by Payton Braun late in the first period and Owen Cox early in the second pulled the Panthers within two goals, but two quick Victoria goals midway through the second restored the four-goal difference heading into the final frame. The Panthers gave up three more in the third, with Mason McNeill scoring the Panthers’ final goal.

RELATED: Panthers GM expects big things for Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season

Panthers head coach Brad Tippett said the team envisioned a different start to the season in the face of what he described as “lofty expectations,” some of which were met while others were not. But if Tippett lamented the team’s start, his comments also sounded a tone of personal accountability.

“Early in the season we are teaching systems, tactics and trying to find out who fits together,” he said. “I’ll take responsibility for the fact we maybe have placed too much emphasis on that and not enough on simple combative drills. The fact is while we want players to understand the ‘who, what, why, where, when and how’ — if you don’t get to the puck first it doesn’t really matter.”

While the Panthers did have stretches when their compete level was where it should be, he said, “the issue was we were down before it kicked in.”

The Panthers return to action Wednesday (Sept. 15) with a road game against the Westshore Wolves in Colwood. Peninsula hosts the Wolves at Panorama on this Friday with puck drop at 7:30 p.m.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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