By Peter Kung, Cougars Media
September 27, 2013, ESQUIMALT, B.C. – A major meltdown nearly cost the Victoria Cougars a victory on Thursday. Victoria did manage to hang on for a 7-5 win but not before coming oh so close to blowing a four goal lead to the Peninsula Panthers in VIJHL action in Esquimalt.
To describe Thursday night’s game between the two longstanding division rivals as a nail biter is an understatement.
Leading 6-2 after two periods, the Cougars allowed Peninsula to score three unanswered goals before an empty netter by Marino Somerville with 7.1 seconds remaining in regulation would send the hometown crowd at the Archie Browning Sports Centre home happy.
The two teams were deadlocked at 2-2 after twenty minutes.
Spencer Loverock and Ryan Carson exchanged goals 22 seconds apart before Nick Bower put Victoria up 2-1 at the 13:23 mark of the opening period.
The goal by Loverock was scored on the power play.
Showing why he is the leading goal scorer amongst all defensemen in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, Sean Buchanan weaved his way through a maze of Cougar defensemen before ringing the puck off the far post and in for his fourth goal of the season at 14:55.
Victoria (7-0-0-0), who came out like gangbusters in the second period, overwhelmed the Panthers from the drop of the puck.
David Marshall gave the Cougars a 3-2 advantage with a power play goal at 6:59. Victoria doubled its lead at 10:34 when Jordan Davie rifled the puck past Stephen Heslop.
Another power play goal, this time courtesy of Mark Walton, padded the Cougars lead to 5-2 at 11:28. Then at 15:29, Jake Daughtry made it 6-2 with Thomas Sercombe and Patrick Webb picking up assists.
Seemingly in cruise control, the wheels began to slowly fall off one by one for Victoria.
From the point, Loverock scored his second goal of the game after his shot beat Connor Beauchamp five-hole at 4:23 to cut the deficit in half.
Connor Logan made it 6-4 at 8:12.
Anxiety filled the A.B.S.C. when Braeden Pearce made a pass through the neutral zone at 9:40 to Reece Costain who snuck behind the Cougars defense for a breakaway.
Instead of juking and jiving, Costain wound up and let go a slap shot from less than 20 feet out to pull Peninsula (3-2-1-1) to within a goal.
The Cougars had a golden opportunity to notch the insurance marker when Buchanan took a kneeing penalty at 13:17 followed by a delay of game penalty to Nick Kean at 15:15. After a couple of scoring chances, Victoria would not be able to capitalize.
Then with just over a minute remaining in regulation, Wade Johnson put the Panthers on the man advantage after taking a slashing penalty in the defensive zone.
On the ensuing face off and with Heslop at the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Jackson Skerratt beat Walton on the draw. And with time winding down, Graham Zagrodney made the save of the day after he threw his body in front of a Cole Glover slap shot.
Then after gobbling up a loose puck, Somerville scored from just outside his own blue line into a wide open cage.
The Cougars went 2-for-5 on the power play; meanwhile, Peninsula went 1-for-5.
It was a tough night for both goaltenders. Heslop finished the night with 40 saves while Beauchamp turned aside 18 shots.
In Nanaimo, Riel Gibson had three goals and an assist to lead the hometown Buccaneers to a 4-1 win over the Saanich Braves at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, September 27 against the Campbell River Storm. Game time at the Rod Brind’Amour Arena, located at 225 South Dogwood Street, is 7:30 p.m.
1st star, David Marshall (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2nd star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
3rd star, Jordan Davie (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)