ESQUIMALT, B.C. – Darwin Lakoduk is quickly becoming a household name.

After starting out the season with three goals in his first two games, Lakoduk scored three more times on Thursday to lead the Victoria Cougars to a 5-3 win over the Peninsula Panthers.

It was not pretty but Victoria will take it.

Leading 4-1 early in the third period, the Panthers clawed back with two quick goals of their own before Lakoduk closed out the scoring with just over a minute to play in regulation.

“We didn’t put in a 60 minute effort today,” Cougars head coach Suneil Karod said.  “We’re still young and learning but our leaders are going to have to step up and lead the way.”

Granted, the defense was missing several key defenders.  With Carl Ewert suspended and Shane Kime unavailable, that left Alexander Benger, JC Ingram, and William Thompson as the only blue-liners in the lineup.

Liam Kinshella was moved from his natural position at centre to playing on the back end.

Victoria led 2-1 after one period and 4-1 after two.

Connor McKillop, who was making his first start in net for the Cougars, saved his best for the third period.

With nine minutes to play and Victoria clinging to a one-goal lead, McKillop robbed Jack McMillan with his left pad.  Four minutes later, McKillop took a Ty Hermsen slap shot to his chest.  And with Panthers goaltender Chris Akerman pulled for an extra attacker, McKillop denied Marshall Brown twice from in close.

Peninsula outshot the Cougars 16-8 in the third period and 31-27 overall.

“McKillop did a great job in his debut.  I was very happy with his play,” Karod said.

The Panthers opened the scoring on the power play at 6:46. After taking a slap pass off the skate from Skyler Diamond-Burchuck, Brown fired the puck home from an impossible angle.

A hooking penalty to Bryson Hines and a double minor for high-sticking to Hermsen put Victoria on a two-man advantage for 57 seconds.

And with 23 seconds remaining in the initial penalty, Lakoduk tucked the puck between the near post and the right pad of Akerman at 16:54 to tie the game.

Still on the same man advantage, Akila Sato-Gaudreau scored 35 seconds later to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.

Lakoduk notched his second goal of the game at 5:24 of the second period after fending off the back check of Braeden Hansen and sliding the puck through the legs of Akerman.

Then at 15:26, Victoria struck for its third power play goal of the game.  Zefan Pighin, standing alone in the slot, redirected home a William Thompson point shot for his first goal of the young season.

Peninsula would come out with guns blazing in the third period.

McMillan cut the deficit in half after converting a Diamond-Burchuck rebound into a goal at 5:18.

Just over three minutes later, Carson Cox unloaded a wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat McKillop far side.

“The third goal wasn’t great,” Karod said.  “I think he [McKillop] wants that one back.”

After McKillop single-handedly kept his team from relinquishing the lead, Kyle Wade set up Lakoduk for his third goal with 77 seconds remaining in regulation.

Wade finished the game with four assists while Thompson chipped in with three helpers.

Both teams had four power play opportunities.

Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Derek Krall stopped 34 shots as the Nanaimo Buccaneers upended the Campbell River Storm 2-1 in front of 360 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Next game for Victoria is Sunday, September 17 against the Kerry Park Islanders.  Game time at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, located at 1151 Esquimalt Road, is 3:30 p.m.



1st star, Darwin Lakoduk (Goals:  3, Assists:  0)

2nd star, William Thompson (Goals:  0, Assists:  3)

3rd star, Skyler Diamond-Burchuck (Goals:  0, Assists:  2)