The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals have at least two home games remaining in the 2016-17 season. They’re hoping to make it more.
The Generals (11-35-1-2) close out the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season Saturday evening when they host Kerry Park at 7:30 p.m. at Oceanside Place. The team, which sits eighth overall in the nine-team league standings, will return to the ice Monday at 7:30 p.m. for a one-game playoff against Peninsula.
The winner of that game advances to a best-of-seven series against Campbell River, the North Division regular-season winner. The loser goes straight to the off-season.
“The next week here is about every time we get on the ice moving forward and getting ready for that one-game playoff,” Generals head coach Gerry Bickerton said following Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Saanich. “There’s nothing else we’re playing for right now, except that playoff. So we’ve got to put ourselves in the right mental state and physical state to do that.”
A compressed late-season schedule has done its part to provide the Gens a reminder of playoff-style ice time. Oceanside is coming off a weekend of three games in four days, and had just two days of rest before traveling to Nanaimo for a Thursday contest at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice Centre.
The Generals opened the closing run by pushing host Comox to double overtime Friday before settling for one point in a 4-3 loss.
“I liked our game from our guys; we showed some real good character,” said Bickerton. “We were down 2-0 early, then 3-1, and battled back.”
Oceanside Generals forward Owen McDonald, right, tries to get his stick in play as Saanich’s Brandon Barnes wraps up his arms during Saturday’s VIJHL game at Oceanside Place. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
The following night, back a home, the Gens dropped the 5-1 decision to Saanich in a game in which all the goals were scored in the second period.
“I thought the first and third periods were OK,” said Bickerton. “The difference was, in the second period we just started watching the game instead of playing it.”
The holiday weekend wrapped up Monday with a 5-1 loss at Campbell River, in a possible preview of a first-round playoff series.
The Generals will first need to get past Peninsula, of course. The teams split their four-game series this season, 2-2, with each team going 1-1 on home ice.
The Gens outscored the Panthers 22-16 in those games, but all of that margin can be credited to an 11-2 victory in their first meeting, Oct. 7 in North Saanich.
“We’ve got to be playing the right way this week, winning the board battles, getting into those dirty areas, not playing soft,” said Bickerton. “It’s a different brand of hockey. Regular-season hockey is one thing for 48 games; but playoff games are much more intense.”