Saanich Braves full color logo

By ISN Junior Reporter Skylar Craig
Photos by Richard Hyde 

(ISN) – The Saanich Braves defeated the Peninsula Panthers 5-4 Monday evening in Game 4 of their VIJHL semi-final and will look to eliminate the Panthers on home ice in Game 5 on Wednesday.

After dropping a second devastating 5-4 loss on home ice Monday evening, the Peninsula Panthers need some magic Wednesday as they try to avoid elimination by the Saanich Braves from the VIJHL playoffs. The Braves are currently leading the series 3-1, and the Panthers require some strategizing before Wednesday if they want to get back into the series.

In another closely played contest Monday, David Stephens opened up the scoring for the Panthers early on in the first period off a rebound from a shot by Trevor Yee. The lead was maintained for the majority of the period, until the last five minutes when Saanich’s Sam McMullen scored one for the Braves. The puck was passed across the crease and knocked in as the Panthers’ goalie Stephen Heslop attempted to shift back into position.

Saanich’s Sam McMullen scores past a sprawling Panther Goalie Steve Heslop who was scrambling to get himself back in position (Photo by Richard Hyde)

Two minutes later, Andrew White of the Braves managed to sneak another one past Heslop and the Braves left the period with a 2-1 lead. Despite these two quick goals, Heslop was solid in net and kept the Panthers in the game throughout.

In the second period, the Panthers clawed back and Yee tied up the game after receiving a sharp pass from Joe Densmore. The puck was sent from the left corner of the rink up the center, where Yee let a shot loose. In the last five minutes of the period, the Panthers started to get sloppy, with bad passes flying everywhere and repeated giveaways.

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Trevor Yee celebrates one of his goals Monday (Photo by Richard Hyde)

With 26.1 seconds left on the clock and .01 seconds left on their power play, a Braves’ attacker fired the puck at net and hustled for his own rebound, where he passed it back out and Sheldon Trees let loose a wild shot that was roofed right under the crossbar, scoring the team’s third goal.

The Braves had definitely outplayed the Panthers in shots during the first two periods, leading the shot on net 29-15, while the unruly Panthers had a 6-3 lead on the penalties and would receive two more to come.

Two minutes into the third period, Connor Krupa of the Braves scored another cross net goal, and McMullen scored his second of the night minutes later on yet another power play, due to a costly turn over.

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Saanich’s Sam McMullen tries to muscle past Peninsula’s Chris McDonald during Monday’s action (Photo by Richard Hyde).

At this point, the Panthers’ coach called a time out which was extremely effective. The Panthers came back to play hard and were nearly able to tie up the scoring.

Chris McDonald took a long shot from just inside the blue line that was tipped in by affiliated player Cole Glover, for his second VIJHL goal. With two minutes left in the game, the Panthers pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, attempting to score the two goals back and send the game into overtime. The Panthers’ captain Jake Bryan fired a low shot in forcing the Braves goalie Tanner McGaw to make a fine pad save. Stephens capitalized on the rebound, earning his second goal of the night and raising the Panthers’ hope for a come back with just under thirty seconds left in the game.

Dave Stephens (left) and Jake Bryan (right) lead the Peninsula attack during action Monday (Photo by Richard Hyde).

The Panthers managed to get back into the Braves end, but after seconds of passing around looking for an opportunity, a Braves defenseman got a hold of the puck and fired it down to the Panthers’ end, and the Braves walked away with a 5-4 win.

With the Braves leading the series 3-1, the final chance for the Panthers to stage a comeback and remain in the series is Wednesday at Pearkes Arena, with an 8:30 puck drop.