NORTH SAANICH, B.C. – Nate Reinhart stopped all 25 shots he faced for the Victoria Cougars in his return to action after missing seven weeks because of an undisclosed injury.

Acquired from the Campbell River Storm in mid-November, Reinhart backstopped the Cougars to a 2-0 win over the Peninsula Panthers before an announced crowd of 199 at Panorama Recreation Centre on Friday night.

As the buzzer sounded to end the game, Reinhart was swarmed by his teammates.

Matthew Sparrow scored early in the first period and Mateo Albinati added a power play goal in the third for Victoria (19-13-1-1).

The South Island Division leading Cougars remained three points ahead of the Saanich Braves who beat the Kerry Park Islanders earlier in the evening.

It was the second shutout of the season for Reinhart.

Sparrow gave Victoria a 1-0 lead only 80 seconds into the game.

After a scoreless middle frame, Kyle Wade fed the puck out front to Albinati who beat Chris Akerman at 9:41 of the third period.

Albinati, along with Alexander Benger, Darwin Lakoduk, Reinhart, Sparrow, and head coach Suneil Karod, will be representing the Cougars at the 2018 VIJHL Prospects Game in Campbell River on Sunday.

Victoria has been playing well defensively as of late; allowing a paltry 11 goals in its last six games.  That proved too much for Peninsula (15-19-0-1) who has mustered only one win in five head-to-head meetings with the Cougars.

Neither team could do much with the man advantage.

Victoria went 1-for-8; meanwhile, the Panthers finished 0-for-7.

With just under three minutes to go in regulation, Reinhart robbed Tanner Wort with a spectacular glove save to preserve the shut out.

Landon Kitchen, who was a physical threat all night for the Cougars, was named the game’s third star.

Elsewhere in the VIJHL:  Saanich Braves 6, Kerry Park Islanders 2.  Campbell River Storm 4, Nanaimo Buccaneers 2.  Oceanside Generals 7, Comox Valley Glacier Kings 1.