The 2016-17 Quality Foods Oceanside Generals offered their final salute of the season to their largest audience Monday, following a 3-1 loss to the Peninsula Panthers at Oceanside Place that ended the Generals’ season.
The game, played before well over 200 fans despite the early week puck drop, was a single, wild-card playoff pitting the two lowest-ranked teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Their victory earned the Panthers the right to face Campbell River in a first-round, best-of-7 playoff series beginning this week.
The Generals, meanwhile, were left to contemplate what could have been after outplaying the visitors for the bulk of the game but surrendering goals on three defensive breakdowns spanning the second and third periods.
“I thought we ran into a hot goalie,” Generals coach Gerry Bickerton said after Panthers netminder Dustin Anderson made 31 saves. “The puck seemed to be a magnet to him, and then it seemed like every breakdown we had, they made a perfect play.
“Like I said to the guys, this is kind of why you don’t want to put yourself in a one-game playoff.”
It was the second straight year the Generals have bowed out as the ninth team in a league that sends eight to the playoffs. Oceanside’s last postseason series came following the 2014-15 season, when Campbell River swept to a 4-0 series win.
The teams had skated to a 2-2 record in their regular-season meeting, with each team winning once at Oceanside Place. What really separated the teams was, in the Generals two wins they totaled 19 goals. In the two losses they had a combined three goals, and Anderson ensured Monday’s playoff followed another low-scoring script.
“I thought we were the better team,” said Bickerton. “I thought we dictated the more of the play, but their goalie stood on his head.” said Bickerton. “I mean, Dougie played fantastic as well; they just happened to bury their breakdown chances and we didn’t make ours.
Koby Adams-Loitz scored the Gens’ lone goal, briefly tying the game 1-1 midway through the second period. The goal was set up by some hard-nosed corner work by Mitch Cook, who tied up a pair of Peninsula players while allowing teammate Max Creighton to scoop up the puck and send a pass from below the end line onto Adams-Loitz’s tape in the slot at 12:38 of the second.
Oceanside Generals goalie Tanner Douglas knocks down a high shot during Monday’s wild-card playoff game against Peninsula at Oceanside Place. The Gens saw their season come to an end with a 3-1 loss to the Panthers. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
But Peninsula, which had opened scoring on a 2-on-1 rush following a blue line turnover earlier in the period, went back in front for good at 14:22 of the second. Marshall Brown took advantage of a communication breakdown to skate right between a pair of Oceanside defenders and deke Generals goalie Tanner Douglas before chipping a shot into the upper half of the net.
Oceanside outshot the Panthers 32-28, but saw its chances dwindle in a third period marked by a series of penalties that left the team short-handed. And Peninsula finally put an insurance goal on the board with 5:03 left to play, when Ty Hermsen managed to get behind not one, but two Generals to turn a simple dump-in of the puck into a breakaway goal just over the pad of the stretching Douglas.
The teams spent a brisk, penalty-free opening period content to feel each other out. The Generals largely controlled the run of play and enjoyed a 12-9 edge in shots on goal, but the emphasis for both squads seemed to be to limit mistakes and not give the opponent any opening as they carried a scoreless tie into the first intermission.