Depending on what happened down Island Monday evening, Oceanside’s Save On Foods Generals will either be back home tonight for game five of their first round best of seven Junior B hockey playoff series, or their season is cooked.
The Gens scored on the first two shots of the game but lost the series opener 6-5 at home Feb. 23, and went into last night’s must-win in North Saanich down three games to none after back-to-back losses on the weekend.
Last Friday in Peninsula, Oceanside lost 4-3. On home ice in Parksville on Saturday in front of a good-sized crowd, the Generals turned in a terrific game but couldn’t buy a bounce and had their hearts broken in a 3-1 final.
“It was a heartbreaking loss … it was a great game. We battled back but we just couldn’t get that second goal to tied it up,” said Gens’ head coach and GM Dave Johnston, and made the point, “I’m real proud of how our guys have battled in every game this series. Sports is all about momentum, and we just have to get the momentum going back our way and we’ll get back into this thing.”
Another fast-paced, wide open entertaining contest, Saturday was a classic goaltender’s duel as the two teams played to a scoreless tie through 40 minutes.
The Panthers were able to get one by Gens’ starter Michael Gudmandson 3:14 into the third, and Taylor Gray (Kyle Yamasaki) countered for the home team when he buried his own rebound to beat Stephen Heslop at 11:02 and knot it 1-1.
Both teams continued to press, and the Panthers took a 2-1 lead at 11:45 then nailed down the win with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Shots on goal were 36-32 in favour of Oceanside on the night.
In Friday’s second game, Oceanside outshot Peninsula 30-19 on the night. Both teams’ penalty kills were working as the Gens were 0-for-5 with the man advantage and the Panthers 0-for-6.
The Panthers opened the scoring 8:13 into that game and added another with 1:12 left in the opening period for a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Local D-man Noah Russi (Conor Enright, Kyle Yamasaki) cut it to 2-1 8:54 into the second but Peninsula lit the lamp for two more in just over three minutes to go up 4-1. Travis Briggs (Yamasaki, Dylan Haugen) got one back at 15:03 to make it 4-2 Peninsula after 40.
Briggs (Nick Bell) scored the lone goal of the third and that would be it for the Gens.
“We’re down 3-0 but in all honestly it could easily be us up 3-0,” Johnston said Monday. “We’ve definitely played well enough every game to be on the other side of the score.”
And while playing well and losing is better than playing poorly and losing, it presents the challenge of staying calm and sticking to the game plan.
“Absolutely,” Johnston agreed, adding, “it’s so difficult this time of year because you can do a lot of very good things and still loose. The big thing for our team is to put Yamasaki and Bell at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and play for them because they don’t want to go out like this.”
Johnston of course was referring to home-grown captain Nick Bell and ironman Kyle Yamasaki ,who are both in their final campaign and who both have been playing lights out.
“I absolutely believe that wholeheartedly,” the long-serving bench boss answered quickly when asked if he thinks his team will show up with their work boots on Monday.
“In all honesty that’s not even a question in my mind.”
Game 5, if necessary, between the Generals and Panthers goes tonight (Tuesday) at Oceanside Place. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.