Peter Kung

(ISN) – The Victoria Cougars host the Peninsula Panthers this Thursday to open up a home-and-home series.

Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.

Both teams will meet again Friday night in Peninsula.

Mark Van Helvoirt and his troops look to get back on track following a 5-1 loss to the Campbell River Storm last Thursday. The loss snapped the Cougars five-game winning streak.

Victoria (32-5-1-0) enters Thursday’s game 38 points ahead of the Panthers in the South Island Division and three points behind the league-leading Storm in the race for the Andy Hebenton Trophy. However, the Cougars hold two games in hand on Campbell River.

Thursday’s game gives Nathan Looysen and Garnett Roberts an opportunity to face their former teams. Looysen, who was acquired from the Panthers in mid-December, has paid dividends. The former Kamloops Blazers forward has amassed three goals and two assists in five games for Victoria.

Meanwhile, Roberts is carving himself out a nice niche as an offensive-minded defenseman on the Peninsula blue line. After posting eight points for the Cougars, Roberts has two goals and one assist in seven games with his new team.

Thursday’s game also marks the seventh of eight meetings between these two long-standing rivals. Victoria has won five of the six games this season, including a 5-1 win back on December 12, by a combined score of 22-12.

Look out but here comes Peninsula.

Led by Grayden Hohl, who has six points in his last four games, the Panthers are working their way up the South Island Division standings. They are three points out of fourth place and only six points away from third place.

Peninsula (13-27-0-1), the hottest team in the VIJHL right now, has won its last four games.

Another reason for the Panthers success has been the play of goaltender Alex Olson. The five-foot-nine, 160-pounder from Langley, B.C. has allowed only nine goals in his last six games.

Expect Olson to make his 20th consecutive start in between the pipes on Thursday.

Peninsula’s penalty kill has also vastly improved, having allowed only one goal in their last eight games.

Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Saanich travels to Nanaimo to take on the Buccaneers at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

STANDINGS: Victoria – 1st place, 65 points, South Island Division. Peninsula – 5th place, 27 points, South Island Division

OFFENSE: Victoria – 2nd place, 4.89 goals for per game. Peninsula – 9th place, 2.51 goals for per game

DEFENSE: Victoria – 1st place, 2.03 goals against per game. Peninsula – 6th place, 4.02 goals against per game

TEAM LEADERS: Victoria – Michael Fretz, Wade Johnson, 29 goals; Sam McMullen, 48 assists; Sam McMullen, 73 points; John Kretzschmar, 71 penalty minutes. Peninsula – Josh Poland, 10 goals; Grayden Hohl, 17 assists; Grayden Hohl, 25 points; Conner Mowatt, 55 penalty minutes

GOALTENDERS: Victoria – Anthony Ciurro (1.51 goals against average, .934 save percentage); Grant Payne (2.39 goals against average, .896 save percentage). Peninsula – Alex Olson (3.01 goals against average, .893 save percentage); Jordan Vander Heiden (no appearances)

POWER PLAY: Victoria – 2nd place, 47-for-200, 23.50 percent. Peninsula – 8th place, 28-for-216, 12.96 percent

PENALTY KILL: Victoria – 1st place, 158-for-173, 91.33 percent. Peninsula – 6th place, 145-for-180, 80.56 percent

SEASON SERIES: Victoria leads, 5-1-0-0

September 12, 2014. Victoria Cougars 4 @ Peninsula Panthers 2
September 26, 2014. Victoria Cougars 3 @ Peninsula Panthers 1
November 20, 2014. Peninsula Panthers 4 @ Victoria Cougars 1
November 23, 2014. Peninsula Panthers 1 @ Victoria Cougars 3
December 7, 2014. Peninsula Panthers 3 @ Victoria Cougars 6
December 12, 2014. Victoria Cougars 5 @ Peninsula Panthers 1
January 23, 2015. Victoria Cougars @ Peninsula Panthers

HOME/AWAY RECORDS: Victoria – Home, 15-2-1-0. Peninsula – Away, 5-17-0-0

STREAKS: Victoria, 0-1-0-0. Peninsula, 4-0-0-0

LAST TEN: Victoria, 8-2-0-0. Peninsula, 6-4-0-0