By Peter Kung
(ISN) – ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars extended their winning streak to six games following a 6-3 victory over the Peninsula Panthers on a clear and mild Sunday afternoon.
Because of the Celebration of Lights parade in Esquimalt later that day, game time for Sunday’s affair was moved up by one hour. The time change did not faze Victoria in any way, shape, or form as they went on to score four first period goals en route to the win.
Brett Lervold, who was named the game’s first star, scored two of his three goals in the first period.
The Cougars (24-3-1-0) showed why they possess the top-ranked penalty kill in the VIJHL. Stymied for most of the afternoon, Peninsula had a two-man advantage for one minute and six seconds which carried over from the first period to the second. In addition, the Panthers received a five-minute man advantage early in the third period.
They, however, were unable to capitalize on either one of those power plays.
Down 4-0 after 20 minutes, Peninsula rallied with the only two goals of the second period to cut the deficit in half. But that would be as close as the Panthers would get.
Ryan Carson opened the scoring as he took a John Kretzschmar pass and one-timed it past Alex Olson at 6:43.
And with Sean Buchanan in the penalty box for Peninsula, Lervold scored at 11:21 to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead. Assisting on the goal were Ryan Buse and Sam McMullen who extended his point streak to 16 games.
Lervold scored his second of the afternoon when his shot beat Olson over the shoulder at 13:25.
Then at 15:43, Michael Fretz gave Victoria a 4-0 lead after tipping home an Aiden Silzer-Hooker point shot.
Peninsula (7-23-0-1) finally scored its first goal of the game midway through the middle frame as Buchanan head-manned the puck to Nathan Looysen who made a nice deke on Anthony Ciurro before potting his first of two goals on the afternoon. The goal came with Kretzschmar sitting in the sin bin.
A kneeing penalty to Hunter Frampton would put Victoria on its fifth power play.
While playing shorthanded, Looysen received a penalty shot which was stopped by Ciurro. After the save, Ciurro had his pads tapped by Wade Johnson and McMullen. However, the congratulatory celebrations were short-lived when the Panthers cut the lead in half on a shorthanded goal from Braeden Pearce at 16:57.
Peninsula got an excellent opportunity to narrow the gap at the 4:20 mark of the third period when Kretzschmar laid out Brett Sjerven behind the Panthers net. As Sjerven lay face down on the ice, Kretzschmar received a five-minute major for checking-to-the-head and a game misconduct.
Sjerven, who was attended to by trainer Josh Armstrong and had to be helped off the ice by Kyle Richardson and Frampton, would return but wearing a full face cage.
Peninsula was not able to get many opportunities during the five-minute man advantage. In fact, the Panthers only got one shot on net. During the extended power play, the Cougars cleared their zone 11 times before Carson, who was serving the penalty, stepped out onto the ice.
Overall, the Panthers went 1-for-8 with the man advantage.
McMullen and Looysen would exchange goals at 11:36 and 13:17 respectively.
With time running out, Panthers head coach Rob Mortin took a page out of Patrick Roy’s playbook by pulling Olson with 3:17 left in regulation. And with 6.2 ticks remaining, Lervold would score into an empty net for his first hat-trick since February 5, 2014.
Johnson finished the game with three assists. Lane Van de Wetering chipped in with two helpers for the Cougars while Buchanan and Josh Poland did the same for Peninsula.
Despite getting outshot in both the second and third periods, Victoria finished the game with 26 shots compared to 24 by the Panthers.
In Mill Bay, Braedan Cross scored three goals and added a pair of assists as the Kerry Park Islanders thumped the Comox Valley Glacier Kings 9-4.
Next game for the Cougars is Thursday, December 11 against the Oceanside Generals. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.
1st star, Brett Lervold (Goals: 3, Assists: 1)
2nd star, Nathan Looysen (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
3rd star, Lane Van de Wetering (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)