Cougars Thumps Panthers in VIJHL Championship Opener

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By Peter Kung

ESQUIMALT, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars cruised to an 8-0 win over the Peninsula Panthers in Game 1 of the 2012 VIJHL Championship Series.

Sunday’s game at the Archie Browning Sports Centre was never in doubt as Victoria roared out to a four goal first period lead. And to add insult to injury, the Cougars outshot Peninsula 57-13 which included a 24-5 advantage through the opening 20 minutes.

Steve Axford, co-winner of the Doug Morton Trophy (awarded to the leading scorer during the regular season), scored three goals. Wade Johnson added a pair while Trevor Chown, Chris Bannister, and Kyle Richter each chipped in with singles.

Getting the shutout was Bryce Halverson whose best stop came midway through the second period after he got his pad in the way of a Joe Densmore scoring attempt.

The Panthers, who finished off the Saanich Braves in double overtime on Saturday, spent most of the afternoon in the penalty box. In fact, Peninsula put the Cougars on the man advantage 16 times which included gift wrapping Mark Van Helvoirt’s squad with three lengthy five-on-three powerplay opportunities in the first period alone.

Axford got Victoria on the board at the 7:51 mark after one timing a Sam Rice pass behind starting goaltender Stephen Heslop.

Now cue the long list of penalties.

Iver Oedegaard put Peninsula on its first penalty kill of the game after he received a two minute minor for kneeing at 8:55. The Panthers were on the verge of successfully killing off the penalty until a miscue by Heslop at 10:16 resulted in Chown scoring into a wide open net.

The Cougars padded their lead after Axford beat Heslop low and to the goaltender’s right side at 15:51. Watching the proceedings from the sin bin were Logan Gibson and Kayle Ramsay.

It got worse for Peninsula when Johnson made it 4-0 at 17:03 after he scored off a rebound. Ramsey, who was still in the penalty box, had over two and a half minutes remaining in his double minor for butt-ending.

After allowing four goals on 20 shots to that point, Heslop was replaced by Kylar Stern.

Frustrations boiled over for the shell-shocked Panthers at the end of the period. As the buzzer sounded, Josh Bloomenthal shot the puck the length of the ice and then proceeded to shove Jake Nixon.

Peninsula’s co-owner Pete Zubersky was ejected from the game after his tirade.

The game remained 4-0 until the 13:36 mark of the second period.

An interference penalty to Oedergaard and a hit to the head penalty to Tyler Porteous 64 seconds apart put Victoria on another two man advantage. Axford scored his third of the game after converting a Bannister pass into a goal.

Then at 16:40, Bannister made it 6-0 while in the process of falling down.

Johnson notched his second goal of the playoffs after taking a stretch pass from Graham Zagrodney and beating Stern on a breakaway at the 36 second mark of the third period.

75 seconds later, Richter rounded out the scoring after Bannister set him up with a tape-to-tape pass.

Firing on all cylinders, Victoria managed to score four powerplay goals while going a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.

Rice finished the game with three assists.

Game 2 goes Thursday, March 22 in Victoria. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:15 p.m.

THREE STARS:

1st star, Steve Axford (Goals: 3, Assists: 0)

2nd star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)

3rd star, Nathan Chen-Mack (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)

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