Panthers, Whitehorse players on prowl for Keystone Cup

Captain Evan Campbell and linemate Joe Densmore, both Yukon natives and Mustangs alumni, have not only helped lead the Saanich, BC, team to league and provincial championships...

Two Whitehorse hockey players are making the Peninsula Panthers junior B team purr with delight.

Captain Evan Campbell and linemate Joe Densmore, both Yukon natives and Mustangs alumni, have not only helped lead the Saanich, BC, team to league and provincial championships, winning the Cyclone Taylor Cup for the first time in team history, a western Canadian title is now within grasp.

“We’ve helped out quite a bit,” said Densmore. “We’ve played together pretty much our whole careers.

“Everyone is pretty pumped up about this. No one on our team has ever made it this far.”

“We’ve had a pretty good year and have continued that into the playoffs,” said Campbell. “Now we’re off to westerns, which is pretty exciting. I’ve never been here before.”

The Panthers are currently in Sherwood Park, Alberta, fighting for the Keystone Cup, the Western Canada Junior B trophy, hoping to become the first team from the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) to win it.

“I think we have a pretty good chance of winning,” said Campbell. “Obviously it’s not going to be easy. We have to work hard as a team and keep doing what we’ve been doing.

“There are five other good teams here, so we can’t take things lightly.”

Win or lose, the Panthers’ season has already been a storied one.

The team has accomplished one of the rarest feats in hockey, coming back from three games down in a seven-game series – in the league finals!

After the Panthers finished the regular season in second – in their division and in the league – behind the Victoria Cougars, the playoff finals turned into a catfight.

The Panthers ended up taking Game 7 by 5-2 over the Cougars, with Campbell and Densmore scoring first-period goals just 30 seconds apart, each on their way to three-point games. Nothing new there, Densmore was second in points for the team in the regular with 75 points and 31 goals while Campbell led the team with 87 regular season points, with 37 goals.

“It was a crazy series; it was by far the craziest series I’ve ever been in, in my career,” said Densmore. “It was pretty wild.

“It seems in the first three games we didn’t play bad, we couldn’t find any ways to score – we got shutout twice. Their goalie was doing really well and we just couldn’t find a way to beat him.”

Their backs against the wall, the Panthers even came back from down 2-0 at the start of the third period in Game 4.

“We took it game by game, came back and ended up winning Games 7,” said Campbell, who was named the playoff’s MVP. “That was one of the more exciting things I’ve been through in hockey for sure.”

“We just found a way to win and we’ve done that ever since. We haven’t lost since that game,” said Densmore.

The two Yukoners, both of whom are in their second season with the Panthers, then helped propel the club to its first ever Cyclone Taylor Cup, BC’s junior B trophy, at the start of the month.

After three undefeated round-robin games, the Panthers defeated the hosting Fernie Ghostriders 5-3 for the cup, with Densmore finding the back of the net in the final.

“We both did well offensively in that tournament,” said Densmore.

For the Keystone Cup, the Panthers will play five round-robin games between Thursday and Saturday, hoping to make Sunday’s final.

“We’ve played together for a long time. We’re both from the Yukon, so we played minor hockey together,” said Campbell. “We’re best buddies off the ice too.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com