Cougars One Win Away From VIJHL Title – Can Close it Out Saturday

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By Peter Kung 
Photos by Richard Hyde 

Victoria (ISN) – Evan Roch turned aside all 26 shots he faced as the Victoria Cougars blanked the Peninsula Panthers 3-0 to move to within one win of claiming the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy for the fourth time in the last eight years.

Victoria, who leads the 2012 VIJHL Championship Series 3-0, will attempt to end it all on Saturday.

Scoring for the visiting Cougars were Ryan Chan, Sam Rice, and Steve Axford.

It was the second shutout of the series for Victoria after a 13 save performance by Bryce Halverson in Game 1.
 

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Canuck anthem singer Mark Donnelly was on hand to sing the anthem Friday as part of a findraiser for Panther fan Aiden Love (Photo by Richard Hyde)

Receiving only his second postseason start, Roch was razor sharp from the get go. The six-foot-two, 190-pound goaltender made back-to-back saves eight minutes in while the Cougars played shorthanded. Then with just over a minute to play in the opening period, Roch robbed David Stephens from in close.

After peppering Panthers’ starting netminder Kylar Stern with 11 first period shots and coming away empty handed, Victoria finally solved the 19-year-old native of Calgary, Alberta, with a powerplay goal.

Chan, who won all three face-offs during the man advantage, opened the scoring at 3:36 of the second period after tipping home a Brody Coulter point shot. Watching the proceedings from the sin bin was Logan Gibson who had one minute and 21-seconds remaining in his interference penalty.

The goal post, a goalie’s best friend or a shooter’s worst nightmare, came to Roch’s aid as Dane Gibson, who was playing with a chip on his shoulder all game, rang the puck off the iron at the five minute mark.

Later in the period, Nathan Chen-Mack had his scoring attempt thwarted by Stern after he and Mark Walton broke free on an odd man rush.

Connor Stephens, named the game’s first star in Game 2, was stopped on a partial breakaway a few minutes later.

Then on an individual effort, Rice left defenseman Chris McDonald flatfooted before threading the puck between Stern’s legs at 14:20. After the goal, Stern slammed his stick to the ice.
 

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The Panther’s Kylar Stern would do his best, but would allow all three goals in the loss to the Cougars Friday (Photo by Richard Hyde).

For the third straight game, untimely penalties would come back to haunt Peninsula.

With Cole Glover in the penalty box, Axford unleashed a point shot that hit the goal post first before ricocheting in to give the Cougars a commanding 3-0 lead, Axford’s goal, which was scored at 13:23 of the third period, was his sixth of the postseason.

A minute later, Joe Densmore was penalized for slashing and was ultimately tossed from the game after continuously arguing the call.

Victoria fans rejoiced again, this time at the 16:11 mark after Colin Minardi lit the lamp. But the goal was disallowed because of a glove hand pass.

As a result, the score remained 3-0.

Then with two minutes remaining, the game took an ugly turn for the worst. Grayson Vickers took a run at Jake Nixon at centre ice resulting in the Panthers’ defenseman taking a tripping penalty. Then along the boards, Brock Dodsworth was ejected from the game after checking Nixon from behind.

Not wanting anything to escalate further, referees Jeff Eden and Jarrett Taylor issued ten minute misconducts to four Peninsula players – Josh Bloomenthal, Ryan Hunter, Tyler Porteous, and Stephens.
 

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Peninsula’s Cole Glover and Victoria’s Mark Walton battle for the puck during Friday’s action (Photo by Richard Hyde).

Jake Bryan, the heart and soul of the Panthers franchise, held his stick over his head as he watched his teammates ordered off the ice one by one.

Even squeaky clean Trevor Yee took a cross-checking penalty and a ten minute misconduct in the last minute of play.

Victoria went 2-for-11 on the powerplay while going a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.

Pete Zubersky was issued a game misconduct at the start of the third period. For the Peninsula co-owner, that was his second game misconduct in the series.

Stern made 32 saves in a losing effort.

Game 4 goes Saturday, March 24 in Peninsula. Game time at the Panorama Recreation Centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Drive, is 6:30 p.m.

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