Strong local content and high quality talent are required for hot Friday night hockey at Panorama.
That’s the goal set by Rob Armstrong, who replaces team owner Jackson Penney as head coach and general manager for the Peninsula Panthers this season — a leap up from his assistant coach position. Armstrong came to the Panthers as a former BCHL player and WHL scout with the Spokane Chiefs.
“I am very excited to be given the opportunity to lead the Panthers behind the bench this year. We will continue to put forward an exciting hard working team on the ice,” Armstrong said. “It’s a smooth transition because I know all the players.”
Joining Armstrong on the bench will be returning assistant coach Rob Hoover as they juggle the roster, seeking that balance of young local prospects and known talents.
“It’s a building process. I’m in constant contact with Junior A teams right now to grab any of their final cuts,” Armstrong said.
“We lost a lot of really strong 20-year-old players,” Armstrong explained. “There’s some shoes to fill.”
Those include last year’s captain Evan Campbell, blue-liner Ryan Reynolds, Mike Scarborough who went off to fight fires in Vancouver, rugged hard-working Marshall Brome and starting goaltender Brady Berisoff.
The Panthers were VIJHL post-season champions last year (for the second year running), and won the Cyclone Taylor Cup to go on to the Western Canadian Keystone Cup where the team finished fourth.
With that backbone of success, there’s only a slight adjustment in philosophy with the new coaching staff.
“I like to be a strong defensive team, to complement our offensive firepower,” Armstrong said. “I like to be a balanced, two-way hockey team. Trying to teach our one-way players that … you want to be a threat in both ends.”
The Panthers are just weeks into the new season, and hit the ice tonight (Sept. 16) to battle the Saanich Braves. On Sept. 23 they host the Kerry Park Islanders and wrap the month at home against arch rival, Victoria Cougars on Sept. 30. Games start at 7:30 p.m. at Panorama Recreation Centre in North Saanich.
“You expect a hard-working, fast-paced physical game with lots of action, lots of excitement,” Armstrong said. “We are trying to put on a show for our local fans on Friday nights, no question about it.”
Visit the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League web site at www.vijhl.com for a full schedule.