February 22,2013, Esquimalt, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Cougars drew first blood in their Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League South Island Division Semi-Final series with the Peninsula Panthers.
Mark Walton and Kelyn Opel each scored twice to lead Victoria to a 6-2 win before 400 fans at the Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Also scoring for the Cougars, who won their 13th game in a row, were Wade Johnson and Brody Coulter.
Evan Roch made 23 saves for Victoria.
The Panthers did a good job keeping the Cougars offense in check for the first period. Despite getting outshot 17-8 in the opening 20 minutes, the visitors came out of the period trailing only by a goal, 2-1.
But Victoria showed its claws in the second period with three unanswered goals.
Tied 0-0, Peninsula received an early two-man advantage for 48 seconds. But the Cougars, who were ranked #1 in both the penalty kill and power play during the regular season, limited the Panthers to only one shot on goal – a Zack Smith point shot.
Walton opened the scoring, on a power play, when he redirected a centering pass by Sam Rice at 6:29. Rice, who recently won Kirby’s Source for Sports VIJHL Player of the Week, did a good job fighting off the tight checking of both Kyle Richardson and Austin Singhera.
Watching the proceedings from the sin bin was Reece Costain who was penalized for cross-checking Jake Stolz 80 seconds earlier.
Peninsula received a scare at the 10:14 mark when defenseman Cody Breitenstein had to be helped off the ice with an apparent lower body injury. The Panthers dodged a bullet when Breitenstein was back out on the ice during the late stages of the period.
Six seconds after Daniel Welch’s penalty had expired; Walton scored his second goal of the evening after he teamed up with Rice and Ben Kinshella at 10:44.
Stephen Heslop, who faced a game total of 37 shots, had no chance on the play.
After the goal, Peninsula called a 30 second time out.
What was said by Panthers’ head coach Brian Passmore seemed to work. At 15:35, Jackson Skerratt scored into a wide open net after he had the puck unintentionally poked to him by a sprawling Victoria player.
After scoring a league high 275 goals during the regular season, Victoria went to work.
A holding penalty to Costain set up the Cougars second power play goal at 3:43 of the second period. Johnson, from his off wing, picked the top corner of the net with a seeing-eye snap shot.
Coulter made it 4-1 at 7:37.
The Cougars added another power play goal at 13:15 when Opel scored from the side of the net.
Relentless pressure from Peninsula in the third period led to Nathan Looysen scoring 34 seconds in.
Then penalties to Jamie Severs and Stolz 25 seconds apart put the Panthers on yet another extended two-man advantage. Fortunately for Mark Van Helvoirt and his troops, Peninsula was unable to capitalize.
Johnson, who was named the game’s third star, lived up to his billing midway through the period when he checked the puck off Welch who was zeroing in on his target untouched.
Opel rounded out the scoring at 8:55.
Victoria finished 3-for-7 on the power play; meanwhile, the Panthers went 0-for-7.
Game 2 goes Friday, February 22 in Peninsula. Game time at the Panorama Recreation Centre, located at 1885 Forest Park Drive, is 7:30 p.m.
1st star, Mark Walton (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2nd star, Kelyn Opel (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3rd star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)