Panthers blanked in opener
Patience will be key for the Pelham Panthers early this season.
The Panthers have high hopes for the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League 2020/21 campaign, but realize it may take time for things to come together.
The Panthers enter the season with a depleted roster, the result of injuries and COVID issues with a handful of players not available as they wait the mandatory two weeks to return to action after receiving their second shot.
“Championships aren’t won in September,” Pelham head coach Chris Lukey said. “This is just all part and parcel of the whole COVID thing. It’s going to be a lot of patience, and it’s going to be a process. We know that and we’re willing to be patient with that because at the end of the day, I know what these kids are capable of.”
The Panthers showed well early on, winning their own tournament and then ran into some injuries at the Canuck Classic in Niagara Falls.
“We had a really good, strong start,” Lukey said. “We’ve got a really good character group in that dressing room and I know it’s going to come together for us. The best thing for us right now is to overcome some of these challenges in September and it’s only going to make us stronger, come January, February and March.”
Lukey said the early challenges could be a blessing in disguise.
“This challenge is a gift to us because if we can bond and stick through this, if we get some of these challenges early right, just imagine how well things are going to go when it all starts.”
The Panthers appear set in net with the return of Brayden Kelso to go along with newcomer John Burbidge.
“We’re really happy with our goaltending,” Lukey said. “As I mentioned right from the beginning of the year, I’m glad we got a couple of older, mature guys. It really eases my mind knowing there are two guys back there that we’re confident in.
“We’re all confident in our goaltending. There’s no issues there whatsoever.”
The Panthers have four returning defencemen — Evan Gibbs, Jason Gee, Michael Hutchings and Liam Sodtke — to go along with several newcomers, including promising Aidan Reynolds.
“We’re really excited about the four returning guys. They are quality players, they’re older guys, and we couldn’t be more happy with our new additions.”
Reynolds is a 17-year-old former member of the Niagara North Stars.
“He has developed a really well,” Lukey said. “He just needs to get a little bit stronger, but he’s right there and he’s highly coachable.”
Jonah Devereaux, Dawson Abrahams, Cody Miskolczi and newcomers Will Stewart and Florian Xhekaj have been impressive up front.
Lukey feels the Panthers will be fine once everything settles down.
“It’s a really exciting time. I’m very optimistic,” he said.
The Panthers dropped their season opener 4-0 Friday night at home to the Hamilton Kilty B’s.
Justin Monteith had two goals for the winners while Nolan Underwood and Liam Galton also scored.
Gage Stewart earned the shutout.
Canucks 8 Hawks 5
The Niagara Falls Canucks raced out to a 4-0 lead after one period en route to an 8-5 triumph over the visiting Thorold Blackhawks Friday night at the Gale Centre.
Tanner McEachern and Zach Mambella had two each for the Canucks while Kyle Cupolo, Sam Ostafin, Harrison Farrugia and Matthew Riva added singles. Riva also chipped in with four assists.
Dylan Coers, Nathan Kelly, Nathaniel Krbavac, Cooper Lobsinger and Liam Loftus scored for Thorold. Harris Goan added four assists.
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