Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

Saanich, BC (ISN) – David Stephens and Jake Bryan each had a goal and two assists to lead the Peninsula Panthers to a decisive 5-2 win over the Saanich Braves Wednesday in game two of their VIJHL semi-final at Pearkes Arena in Saanich.

After dropping an uninspired 7-2 loss to the Braves on Monday, the Peninsula Panthers were a different team Wednesday as they dominated the Braves almost from start to finish, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before the Braves finally responded with two late goals in the third period.

The Panthers would get the jump on the Braves at the 3:32 mark of the first period as Tyler Porteous would rip a sharp angle shot past Braves starter Tanner McGaw just eight seconds into a Panther power-play.

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Peninsula’s Dane Gibson uses some unconventional stick-work to get by Saanich’s Dan Burkmar during the first period Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

That lead would hold until the break, as Panther starting goaltender Stephen Heslop – while only tested seven times – made a couple of key saves to protect the 1-0 lead.

Perhaps a surprise starter after getting pulled in the Game 1 loss, the 16-year old Heslop regrouped nicely and looked more comfortable between the pipes in Game 2.

“We told him right after the game Monday that he was getting the start today,” noted Panthers Assistant Coach Jeff Bryan following the game. “As such, he was able to prepare well, knowing he would be in and it showed tonight. Some of his saves early for us were key.”

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The Panther’s Stephen Heslop started in net Wednesday, bouncing back well from his Game 1 loss and stopping all but two Braves shots to earn the win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Panthers continued to show spark in the second period and just 55 seconds in, Stephens would make a nice move through the high slot and fire a laser past McGaw to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. They would add to that lead just 1:45 later when Josh Bloomenthal would find the twine, giving the Panthers a commanding 3-0 lead.

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Peninsula’s David Stephens would have a goal and two assists to lead the Panthers to their 5-2 win over the Braves Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Braves pushed back a bit after that, but missed opportunities, including a failed breakaway chance by Connor Krupa, and some solid saves by Heslop, prevented any early comeback ideas for the Braves.

Perhaps frustrated at their inability to score, the Braves then became a bit undisciplined, taking two minor penalties late in the period, including Nick Vanstone earning his second hit to the head penalty of the game and thus earning a minor and a game misconduct.

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Saanich’s Matt Biagioni gets the jump on the Panther’s Dane Gibson during third period action Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

On the ensuing power-play, the Panthers would score a slightly controversial goal, as the net was momentarily dislodged from it’s mooring, and with Saanich goalie McGaw screaming to the referee that it had come off, Joe Densmore ripped a shot into the net. Apparently though, unbeknownst to McGaw and the rest of the Braves, the net had somehow been moved back into proper position and the goal stood.

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Peninsula’s Josh Bloomenthal would chip in a goal and an assist in the 5-2 win over Saanich Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

Frustrated with the goal and the call, Saanich’s Adam Wade pushed the net over completely, earning an unsportsmanlike penalty for his deed. The Panthers would once again make the Braves pay the consequences for this, when Jake Bryan’s slap shot from the point found it’s way in with 31 seconds remaining for the 5-0 lead.

In the third period, the Braves replaced McGaw with back-up Bowman Rutledge, but the move could not spark any offence from the sleepy Braves until Sam McMullen would find himself alone in front of the net and, with a nifty move, put one up over the shoulder of Heslop with 9:12 remaining to spoil the Panther shut-out.

James Kellington would add a power-play marker with 3:08 remaining, but despite some late Panther penalties, that would be as close as the Braves would get.

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James Kellington would score one of Saanich’s two goals, on the power-play, late in the third period (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Panther Assistant Coach Bryan was quick to compliment the adjustments his team made from Monday, “It was a real good bounce back night for us, and we made the adjustments we needed to make on this small rink. They have a big advantage playing here and practicing on this small surface all year and that affected us a bit Monday. We looked at some film and made some adjustments in picking up their guys in the middle of the ice and it paid off for us.”

“We also stayed disciplined today and out of the box, whereas they didn’t and we were able to take advantage of that. They killed us on the power-play Monday, but tonight it was our turn to excel on the power-play chances we had.”

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Saanich’s Sam McMullen and Pennsula’s Logan Gibson try to avoid getting hit by the shot, while Panther netminder Stephen Heslop tries to find the puck through them during third period action Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The series now shifts to the Panorama Leisure Centre for Games 3 and 4, to be held respectively on Friday the 9th and Monday the 12th, both at 7:30 pm. Game 5 will be back at Pearkes Arena on Wednesday the 14th.

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Peninsula’s Ryan Hunter streaks out of his zone ahead of Saanich’s Andrew White during the third period of the Panther’s 5-2 win Wednesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).