ESQUIMALT, B.C. – The Victoria Cougars blanked the Peninsula Panthers 5-0 in one of two VIJHL games on tap Thursday night.

With the win, Victoria stretched its lead over the second place Saanich Braves to four points in the tightly-contested South Island Division.

The Cougars and Saanich clash Friday night at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre.

Akila Sato-Gaudreau led the way with a pair of goals while Branden Tangney, Kenny Britton, and Tyler Vanuden chipped in with one each.

Getting the start in net was Anthony Ciurro who stopped all 28 shots for his first shutout of the season.

It has been 20 days since the last time Victoria played.

The Cougars, who showed no signs of rust, jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the first period was eight minutes old.

It was one of the most solid performances Victoria has had in a while.

Thursday marked the debut of 19-year-old defenseman Shane Kime who offers immediate help to the blue line.

Improving to 24-8-0-3 on the season, the Cougars showed why they own the best penalty kill in the VIJHL by erasing ten Peninsula power plays.

Tangney opened the scoring after taking a terrific backhand feed from Britton and beating goaltender Justin Anderson glove side 2:38 in.

Then at 4:17, Sato-Gaudreau walked out from the side wall and buried the puck past Anderson from the top of the blue paint.

Britton gave Victoria a three-goal cushion when his shot from the side of the net squeezed inside the near post at 7:32.

The Panthers, who dealt leading scorer Michael Sproule to Saanich on Wednesday in exchange for defenseman Gavin Yee, was shut out for the second time this season.

Vanuden scored his 19th goal of the year on a two-man advantage at 12:08 of the second period.

With Trevor Owens and Thomas Spink both in the penalty box, Vanuden backhanded the puck up and over Anderson while falling backwards.

The Cougars went 1-for-7 on the power play.

Sato-Gaudreau, who hammered the final nail in the coffin, surprised himself when his shot during an odd man rush rang off the goal post and in at 5:29 of the third period.

After allowing 20 goals in his last three starts, Anderson was peppered with 33 shots on Thursday.

Peninsula drops to 7-25-0-3.

Jordan Passmore had a good night, finishing with two assists.

Elsewhere in the VIJHL, John Hawthorne and Cedric LeSieur combined for 24 saves to help lead the Nanaimo Buccaneers to a 3-1 win over the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in front of 97 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Next game for Victoria is Friday, January 6 versus the Saanich Braves.  Game time at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre, located at 3100 Tillicum Road, is 6:30 p.m.



1st star, Akila Sato-Gaudreau (Goals:  2, Assists:  0)

2nd star, Anthony Ciurro (Saves:  28, Save Percentage:  1.000)

3rd star, Carl Ewert (Goals:  0, Assists:  0)