Report By ISN Junior Reporter Lauren Hyde
Photography By Richard Hyde

(ISN) – Ryan Hunter scored at 5:14 of the second overtime period to give the Peninsula Panthers a 3-2 win over the Saanich Braves in Game 7 of the VIJHL semi-finals Saturday afternoon at Pearkes Arena.  

The Panthers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win three straight and now will face the Victoria Cougars for the second straight season in the VIJHL Championship series which starts Sunday afternoon at Archie Browning Arena.

This series really could have gone either way and for a while it certainly looked like it was going the way of the Braves.

The defiant Peninsula Panthers fought back though to win an exhilarating game 7 in double OT to clinch a berth in the VIJHL finals. Saturdays game went almost 83 minutes with a total 107 shots on goal. Both Peninsula goalie Steve Heslop and Saanich’s Tanner McGraw played out of their skins.

Saanich’s James Kellington looks at his options prior to getting an assist on the first goal of the game.

The first period Saturday saw a strong start from both teams and they look evenly matched for the first 10 minutes. Then the Braves came on very strongly in the second 10. They threw everything at the Panthers and really looked to be taking control of the game and at 11:07 the Braves Ty Ty Jones slotted a beautiful shot past Heslop to open up the scoring. Jones was assisted by Braves #19 James Killington. The period saw 3 penalties a side but no one really capitalised on the opportunity.

Braves teammates celebrate with Ty Jones after the braves open up the scoring

Both teams settled down their game a bit in the second period, but each team continued to rush end to end in a great display of playoff hockey. The Braves opened up their lead early on by scoring a second at 18:31. The scorer was The Braves #16 Sam McMullen and he was assisted by #9 Andrew White.

The Braves seemed to have their spirits lifted by their early advantage and they continued to pressure Panther defence. Their advantage was short lived though and at 10:30 in the second, the Panthers #18 Joe Densmore fired a great one by a sprawling Tanner McGraw to halve the Braves lead. Densmore was assisted by #22 David Stephens and #7 Chris McDonald. Densmore celebrated by hurling himself at the glass to the delight of the watching Panther faithful.

Joe Densmore recieves fist bumps after his second goal in the second period.

The Panthers fans did not have to wait long until Joe Densmore tied the score up at 4:41 and for a second time during the period hurled himself at the glass right in front of the screaming Panthers crowd. Joe’s second goal was assisted by #20 Kayle Ramsay and #19 Dane Gibson. The period ended by the Panthers having a power-play opportunity with 1:52 remaining, but failed to make use of the one man advantage.

The second period was uneventful compared to the rest of the game as no goals were scored by either side. The period lost no momentum though and both sides displayed great hockey skills. So Game 7 headed to overtime.

Tanner McGraw was on top of this shot during Saturday’s action.

In the fourth period nothing eventful happened by the players but the game was stopped for several minuted by the fire alarm sounding. Creating confusion throughout the arena as to whether to follow through the evacuation procedure or not?  The first OT ended with the score still tied and the game headed for a 20-minute second OT. The ice was cleaned and the whole crowd was abuzz with discussion as to who would pull through during the next OT period.

Game winner
Saanich’s Matt Biagioni could only watch from afar as Peninsula’s Ryan Hunter slipped the winning goal past McGaw for the win.

Period five started with everybody on the edge of their seats. As the period got under way, both teams rushed end-to-end relentlessly piling on the shots at every opportunity. Panther Steve Heslop and Brave Tanner McGraw both put on a master class in net minding. Save after save at both ends of the ice drew ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhh’s’ from both sets of fans. The Braves rang one off the pipe as Heslop blocked that edge of the net. Both teams were now in full flight of a sudden death overtime win and every player on the ice gave their all to make sure this would happen.

This game, all game could have gone either way, but today fate was smiling on the Panthers and finally at 5:14 of the 5th period #27 Ryan Hunter scored the “Golden Goal”. The bench emptied and the Panther crowd went wild.

The bench empties, Heslop jumps for joy and a pile up in the corner forms following the winning goal.

The Panthers have earned a well deserved spot in the VIJHL final against the Victoria Cougars. Game 1 takes place Sunday at 3pm Archie Browning Arena.