(ISN) – NORTH SAANICH, B.C. – There is a reason why the Victoria Cougars own the No. 1 ranked penalty kill in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Victoria scored three shorthanded goals and Grant Payne stopped 16-of-18 shots en route to a 7-2 thrashing of the Peninsula Panthers on a drizzly Wednesday evening.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 38-5-1-0 and moved three points ahead of the idle Campbell River Storm in the race for the Andy Hebenton Trophy. The Storm holds one game in hand on Victoria though.
It was 1-1 after one period before the Cougars took a 4-1 lead into the second intermission.
Already without the services of Cody Allison, Brett Carpendale, Ben DeJong, Conner Mowatt, and Garnett Roberts, Peninsula lost Trevor Owens to an undisclosed injury in the first minute of play.
At the Panthers blue line, Owens got the worst of a big collision with Nathan Looysen. As Owens lay face down on the ice, Looysen received a five-minute major for interference and an automatic game misconduct.
Peninsula, who dropped to 14-30-0-1 on the season, opened the scoring on the power play at 3:47 when Mitchell Newman tipped home a Sean Buchanan point shot.
Sam McMullen extended his goal and point streak to six games after redirecting a centering pass from Wade Johnson at 13:44.
There was no scoring until the 2:49 mark of the second period when Johnson wired the puck past Alex Olson for his first of two power play goals.
Johnson was sent to the sin bin after he was assessed a delay of game penalty at 9:08. And with only 11 seconds remaining in the penalty to Johnson, Michael Fretz set up Howard Howden to give Victoria a 3-1 lead.
Just prior to the goal, John Kretzschmar made a huge defensive play by blocking Hunter Frampton’s point shot.
A hooking penalty to Brett Lervold at 15:28 put the Panthers on their fifth power play of the game. And with only 14 seconds remaining in the Lervold penalty, Kretzschmar notched his 19th goal of the season at 17:14.
Johnson made it 5-1 at 7:13 of the third period with another power play goal. Watching the proceedings from the penalty box was Kai Turner who had 98 seconds remaining in his slashing penalty.
Peninsula cut into that deficit when Braeden Pearce whipped a shot past Payne at 12:34.
A slashing penalty to Ryan Buse 22 seconds later put the Panthers on their seventh and final power play. Fighting off three helpless Panthers, McMullen scored at 13:52 for his first shorthanded goal of the season.
After posting two more goals and another assist, McMullen moved nine points ahead of Will McNamara of Campbell River for the VIJHL scoring lead.
Marino Somerville rounded out the scoring on the power play at 16:59.
The Cougars went 3-for-4 with the man advantage while Peninsula went 1-for-7.
Olson made 18 saves on 24 shots before being pulled in favour of Jordan Vander Heiden who stopped all but one of the three attempts he faced.
Victoria also has its fair share of injuries. Anthony Ciurro, PJ Heger, Liam Kinshella, and Nick Lyons were all watching the game from the stands.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, the Nanaimo Buccaneers and Westshore Wolves battled to a 4-4 tie at The Q Centre in Colwood.
Next game for Victoria is Thursday, February 5 against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 7:00 p.m.
1st star, John Kretzschmar (Goals: 1, Assists: 2)
2nd star, Wade Johnson (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
3rd star, Mitchell Newman (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)