Cougars Devour Panthers 4-1

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Peter Kung

Chris Bannister has been on quite a tear as of late.

The seasoned veteran scored once and added a pair of assists to help lead the Victoria Cougars to a 4-1 win over the Peninsula Panthers on Thursday night.

Victoria (30-5-0-1), which extended its season-high win streak to ten games, led 1-0 after one period and 3-0 after two.

Bryce Halverson made 23 saves for his eighth win in as many games.

The Panthers (14-16-0-3) lost their sixth game in seven outings.

With 3:3110 remaining in the opening period, the Cougars were awarded a penalty shot after defenseman Grayson Vickers hooked Sam Rice during a breakaway.

But Rice’s attempt was stopped by Kylar Stern who got his six-foot-one frame in front of the shot.

Prior to the penalty shot, both Mark Walton and Rice had rung the puck off the iron.

Victoria would finally break the goose egg when Bannister banged home a Brody Coulter centering pass at 16:3110 for his 14th goal of the season.

In the process, Coulter moved into top spot in league scoring with 64 points.

The score remained 1-0 in favour of the Cougars until the 2:13 mark of the second period. After taking a pass from Bannister, Rice sped down the right wing and scored off his own rebound after Stern made the initial save.

Twice, Peninsula came close to scoring while killing off a penalty a quarter of the way through the period. But Halverson came up big by stopping Joe Densmore and Brock Dodsworth.

Victoria took a 3-0 lead at 110:35 with the first of two powerplay goals. After Steve Axford hit the goal post, Walton gobbled up the loose puck and fired it past Stern. Picking up the second assist was Bannister who has now amassed 13 points in his last eight games.

Halverson, who lowered his goals against average from 2.14 to 2.00, kept his shutout bid in tact after robing Dane Gibson off a dangerous scoring attempt with two minutes remaining in the middle frame.

The Panthers finally got on the board at the 14:05 mark of the third period after Densmore was credited with his team leading 18th goal of the season.

David Stephens, who has been good for Peninsula since coming over from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League three weeks ago, took an untimely double minor for high-sticking.

Rice was cut on the play.

In addition, referee Jarrett Taylor also assessed the Panthers a bench minor.

Playing five-on-three, Nathan Chen-Mack passed the puck out front from the corner to Graham Zagrodney who wired a slap shot from just inside the blue line for his second goal in as many games. Also assisting was Connor Stephens.

Stern was peppered with 36 shots.

The Cougars went 2-for-7 on the powerplay; meanwhile, Peninsula went 0-for-1.

Next game for Victoria is Friday, January 27 against the Campbell River Storm. Game time at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena, located at 225 Dogwood Street, is 7:30 p.m.

THREE STARS:

1st star, Chris Bannister (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)

2nd star, Graham Zagrodney (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

3rd star, Bryce Halverson (Saves: 23, Save Percentage: .11058)

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