Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart - Josh Gray's second goal of the game, in the 4th round of the shoot-out, gave the Saanich Braves a 3-2 win over the Peninsula Panthers in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action Wednesday night at Pearkes Arena.
The Panthers have been playing great hockey of late and riding a 5-game win streak, all against Northern Division teams, had moved into a second place tie in the overall VIJHL standings with the Braves coming into the game.
They were determined to vault over the Braves on Wednesday, playing the Braves hit-for-hit and shot-for-shot over the first half of the first period, but it would be the Braves would would strike first, with Andrew White snapping a shot past the glove of Panther starter Stephen Heslop at the 7:45 mark to give the Braves the 1-0 lead. Assists to Josh Gray and Shawn McBride.
Saanich's Sam McMullen sets up a screen on Panther goalie Stephen Heslop in first period action Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Braves would add to their lead early in the second, as just under a minute in, Gray would niftily make his way through the Panther defence and flip a shot past Heslop for the 2-0 lead.
The Panthers Josh Adkins does his best Superman impression while the Braves Sam Johnston looks on (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The resilient Panthers would keep driving however, outshooting the Braves 18-10 for the period and finally getting on the board at the 12:34 mark when Reece Costain would beat Saanich goaltender Tanner McGaw after a nice set-up from Cole Glover and some hard work by defenceman Austin Singhera to move the puck into the Braves Zone.
Peninsula's Grayson Vickers moves the puck out of his zone during Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Saanich (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
In the third, it would be the Panthers turn to score within the first minute, this time on the power play after an early penalty to Brave defenceman Jordan Groenhyde. Scoring again for the Panthers was Costain, who somehow jammed the puck past McGaw in a scramble at the side of the net. Assists to Patrick Croome and Josh Adkins.
Saanich's Seamus Maguire charges the puck through the neutral zone Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
After an entertaining remainder of the period that saw both teams have excellent chances to score and the Panthers once again outshooting the Braves 12-11, nothing was resolved and the teams went to overtime.
The Panther's Reece Costain was the offensive bright spot for Peninsula Wednesday, scoring both of the team's goals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Again, nothing was resolved and the teams went to the shoot-out, where after misses by the first three shooters on both sides, and then a save by McGaw on the Panther's Cody Breitenstein, Gray would pull Heslop to his left with a hard deke to his backhand and then wrap the puck around Heslop's outstretched leg and into the open net for the win.
Saanich's Nick Guerra carries the puck up ice during third period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The win gives the Braves 22 points on the year and keeps them in second place overall in the VIJHL, seven points back of first place Victoria, one up on the Panthers and two up on North Division leading Comox. The Westshore Wolves, 6-5 winners over Kerry Park Wednesday, are lurking just 4 points back of the Braves with 18 points.
Saanich's Tanner McGaw would stop all four Panther shooters in the shoot-out including this chance by Cole Golka (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Saanich sees action again on Friday night at Pearkes when they host the winless Kerry Park Islanders. be sure to also mark Friday November 2nd on your calendar as it is the Braves annual Pink in the Rink night when they will host the Westshore Wolves.
Josh Gray was the offensive hero for Saanich Wednesday, contributing a goal, an assist and the shoot-out winner in the 3-2 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)