2016 VIJHL South Island Division Final Preview

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VIJHL Logo

Four down, four to go.

To no one’s surprise, the Campbell River Storm, Nanaimo Buccaneers, Peninsula Panthers, and the Victoria Cougars have all made it to Round 2 of the 2016 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs.

Because there were no upsets in the previous round, both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from both the North and South Island Divisions will square off against each other.

After sweeping the Kerry Park Islanders in four straight games, the Cougars now set their sights on yet another South Island Division title – this time against an up and coming Panthers squad.

It took six games for Peninsula to dispose of the Westshore Wolves.

Victoria and the Panthers meet for the second time in the last three years.  The Cougars defeated Peninsula four games to two in the 2014 VIJHL Championship Series.

Spencer Loverock, the heart and soul of the Panthers, and Ryan Carson and John Kretzschmar of Victoria, are the only remaining players from that epic six-game battle.

These two clubs met eight times during the regular season with the Cougars going 6-2-0-0 against Peninsula and the Panthers posting a 2-5-0-1 mark versus Victoria.  Three of those games were decided by one goal.

In the season series, Cody Hodges was the Cougars leading scorer after posting six goals and seven assists.  VIJHL Rookie of the Year winner Cam Thompson had four goals and nine points to lead the Panthers in head-to-head scoring.

Victoria was dominant in the opening round against the Islanders, scoring 21 times while yielding only four goals.

It will be a battle of youth versus experience when the Cougars and Peninsula meet at the Archie Browning Sports Centre for Game 1 on Thursday.

Victoria has a huge edge over the Panthers when it comes to experience.  Seven players on the Cougars roster have played 12 playoff games or more.  Those include:  Carson (31), Kretzschmar (27), Brett Lervold (27), Nathan Looysen (21), Lane Vandewetering (16), Ryan Buse (15), and Austin Wilk (14).

The only players on the Peninsula roster with a minimum of 12 postseason games played are Loverock (24) and Mitch Moloney (21).  However, 15 of the 21 playoff games Moloney was involved in came while playing for Victoria before getting traded to the Panthers back in mid-December.

Under head coach Mark Van Helvoirt, the Cougars have been among the VIJHL’s elite during his eight-year tenure – winning four league championships during that span.

Looysen leads Victoria offensively with nine playoff points in four games.  Goaltenders Anthony Ciurro and Gregory Maggio each own a 1.00 goals against average heading into the series against Peninsula.

After making it all the way to the 2014 VIJHL Championship Series and then bowing out to the Oceanside Generals in a sudden-death wildcard game last year, the Panthers are back in the playoffs.

Thanks to the dramatic double overtime winner from Loverock in Game 6.

Peninsula is led by Thompson who has recorded eight playoff points in six games.

Former Cougars defensemen Garnett Roberts and Moloney solidify a once-porous blue line.

Michael Sproule adds toughness to a Panthers squad that won the Grant Pearl Award for being the most disciplined team during the regular season.

And workhorse Alex Olson provides the last line of defense for Peninsula.  The five-foot-nine, 165-pound goaltender appeared in 37 games during the regular season and has started all six playoff games.  Do not expect that to change anytime soon.

The North Island Division Final between Campbell River and Nanaimo begins Tuesday, March 8.

Watch and listen to all Victoria Cougars home games on your computer or mobile device.  Simply click the link on the Cougars website or log onto www.fasthockey.com to be connected to the live action.

Beginning Thursday, broadcasts will be available in high definition.  Feedback, negative or positive, can be directed to info@victoriacougars.com.

GAME 1:  Thursday, March 10, 2016

Peninsula Panthers @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

7:00 p.m.

GAME 2:  Friday, March 11, 2016

Victoria Cougars @ Peninsula Panthers

Panorama Recreation Centre

7:30 p.m.

GAME 3:  Sunday, March 13, 2016

Peninsula Panthers @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

3:30 p.m.

GAME 4:  Monday, March 14, 2016

Victoria Cougars @ Peninsula Panthers

Panorama Recreation Centre

7:30 p.m.

GAME 5 (if necessary):  Thursday, March 17, 2016

Peninsula Panthers @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

7:00 p.m.

GAME 6 (if necessary):  Friday, March 18, 2016

Victoria Cougars @ Peninsula Panthers

Panorama Recreation Centre

7:30 p.m.

GAME 7 (if necessary):  Sunday, March 20, 2016

Peninsula Panthers @ Victoria Cougars

Archie Browning Sports Centre

3:30 p.m.

Victoria is the host of the 2016 Cyclone Taylor Cup.  For advance tickets, please contact Gary Boyer by emailing cougarpres@gmail.com or by calling (250) 686-7709.

The 2016 Cyclone Taylor Cup runs April 7-10, 2016, from the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Victoria, British Columbia.

 

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