Oceanside Generals forward Jared Winkel (7) tries to ram the puck home as Nanaimo goalie Blake Wood makes a pad save during the second period of the teams' VIJHL game at Oceanside Place in Parksville Sunday, Dec. 17. — NEWS file photo

Generals kick off New Year against Buccaneers

Coach Hammill said they're hoping to hit .500 and make it to the playoffs

The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals enter the second half of the season ranked seventh in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

Their record currently stand at 13 wins, 16 losses and a tie. It is still short of the .500 target that they set out to achieve by Christmas but head coach Jesse Hammill said it’s close enough.

“Overall, we won some games we shouldn’t have and we lost a couple or three games that we probably should have won,” said Hammill. “When you consider three overtime losses and one tie I think we’re as close to .500 as we can be without being there. You can’t be disappointed with what you don’t have and be happy with what you have. We have to learn from it. We hope to achieve that in the last 15 games, make the playoffs and make a good run in the playoffs.”

The Generals will kick off the new year similar to how they started the new season on the road on Jan. 4 against Nanaimo Buccaneers, who currently lead the league with a 26-6 record for 53 points. The game is at the Nanaimo Ice Centre at 7:15 p.m.

The Generals have faced the Buccaneers six times this season and are 1-5 so far against this team. Their only win was achieved on Nov. 22, when they upset the Buccaneers 3-2 at home. They have always made the Buccaneers work extra hard to earn two points.

At their last encounter, on Dec. 17 at Oceanside Place, the Generals forced the Buccaneers into overtime play after coming back from behind twice in regular time. The Generals ended up losing 5-4 but still gained a point and a big boost to their confidence.

Hammill said the Generals need to be ready to face the Buccaneers again but there’s always a concern about the shape the players will be in coming back from the Christmas break. He is hoping that they’ve not overindulged themselves and have been working out, as well.

“It’s always tough coming back from the break,” said Hammill. “I reiterated to the guys that they can have a bit of fun, recharge their batteries but keep in shape and be ready to go.”

The Buccaneers are seriously chasing the title this year and Hammill expects them to maintain their form during the break.

“They are a good team with a lot of fire power, they have really good goaltending and their defensive structure is good,” said Hammill. “We can’t go there and think that we’ve got them figured out with one win and one loss in overtime. It made the boys realize that they can play with everyone in the league, they can compete. We have to make sure that we do the things that we do well defensively. We have to take advantage of our chances, our power plays, and make sure our penalty kills are pretty good.”

The Generals’ roster consists mainly of young players, but Hammill said they’ve grown fast in the last couple of months and have learned to compete against more seasoned players.

“Overall, those young players, including those who have not put up huge points, their contributions have really set a good thing for us,” said Hammill. “They’ve all done their part. For me it’s all about how they play as a team.”

The top scorer for the Generals at this time is 16-year-old forward Greyson Weme who has 13 goals and 12 helpers while 18-year-old Landon Dziadyk has 10 goals and 10 assists. Among the veterans that have been sparking the Generals offense is 20-year-old Max Creighton who has 11 goals, nine assists and three short-handed goals.

The Generals will play their first home game of 2018 on Jan. 5 against the Comox Valley Glacier Kings at Oceanside Place at 7 p.m.

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