The Peninsula Panthers dug themselves a big hole and never climbed out in a 5-4 home loss to the Port Alberni Bombers in Friday night (Oct. 29) Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action.
Despite being heavily outshot, the expansion Bombers built a 4-0 lead by the time Grant Gilbertson got the Panthers on the board with less than four minutes left in the second period.
Alberni restored its four-goal lead early in the third, prompting a goaltending change for the Panthers, with Rogan Bacon replacing Ashton Lukan. The change appeared to inspire the locals, who outshot the visitors 20-5 in the third and got goals from Payton Braun, Logan Speirs and Riley Braun to narrow the gap to one at 5-4. Peninsula enjoyed a 55-21 edge in shots overall.
Friday’s loss was a setback for the Panthers, winners of two of their previous three games, including victories over South Division rivals Saanich Predators (7-4) and Westshore Wolves (6-4) and a slim 2-1 loss to league-leading Campbell River.
General manager/owner Pete Zubersky said Friday’s loss was tough for several reasons.
“We have not had guys who battled to be in front of the net to take away the goaltenders’ eyes,” he said, adding many shots left opposing goalies with relatively easy saves.
“And we have to have a better effort between the pipes from both of our guys. They are both better than what they are showing and we have tried to be patient with them, but we are at a point where we have to start looking at perhaps other options.”
The Panthers (8-8-1-3, 20 points), who have a league-high three shootout losses this season, can make amends this Friday at home against the Victoria Cougars, who have lost only twice in 19 games and sit one point back of Campbell River Storm.
Zubersky sees the upcoming game as an opportunity to make up some ground, promising improvement.
“I would think Friday will be one of our best efforts of the season with the Victoria Cougars coming in,” he said.
Heading into this week’s games, the Panthers sat tied for third in the south with Kerry Park (10-8-0-0) and three points back of the second-place Wolves (11-6-1-0).
Friday’s game time is 7:30 p.m. at the Panorama Recreation Centre.
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