Oceanside’s Save On Foods Generals came out guns blazing in game one of their Vancouver Island Junior B Hockey League (VIJHL) opening round playoff series against Peninsula Wednesday night.
The Gens struck for two power play goals on their first two shots of the game, but the Panthers clawed back to win a wide-open a 6-5 final.
Things looked good early for the 300 fans on hand at Oceanside Place as hard-charging Dylan Haugen (Keenan McConnell, Conor Enright) staked the home team to a 1-0 lead 2:11 in with the man advantage. Captain fantastic, Gens’ stalwart Kyle Yamasaki (Josef Chase, Nick Bell) upped it to 2-nil 63 seconds later on the PP to chase Peninsula starter Kylar Stern at 3:24.
The visitors cut it to 2-1 at 5:10 with the man advantage, which is how it stood after 20 minutes.
Peninsula out-shot Oceanside 16-6 in the second period and scored three unanswered goals. Trevor Yee, who torched the Gens for a hat trick on the night, scored 55 seconds in and again at 19:12. The Panthers took a 4-2 lead into the final frame.
Haugen (Yamasaki, Keenan McConnell) cut it to 4-3 with another power play marker a buck-57 into the third, and things looked good for the home team again when they continued to press and Enright (Haugen, Yamasaki) scored to knot it 4-4 at 2:53.
The Gens’ stayed on the offensive — they outshot the visitors 10-4 — but the Panthers refused to roll over and replied with two goals in two minutes for a 6-4 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Travis Briggs bulged the twine unassisted at 16:04, but it wasn’t enough on this night.
Peninsula was 1-for-3 with the man advantage, the Gens 3-for-5.
“Obviously we capitalized on some early opportunities, but those power plays funny enough … there was no flow to the game early, and that hurt us,” said Oceanside head coach and GM Dave Johnston. “We didn’t have to play in the trenches to get that lead, and if we’re going to be successful, we’re gong to have to play in the trenches.
“I think we just went into a little bit of a false sense of security and they battled back.”
Does that suggest that jumping on a team early is not the way to go?
“Not at all (but) it’s different jumping on a team early and playing in the trenches, then scoring two quick power play goals. The fact of the matter is it’s hard sometimes when things seem too easy.”
“At the end of the day we battled back, we tied it up, and we pushed hard,” said Johnston. “It’s playoff hockey. We didn’t play poorly, I think we just went into a bit of a lull, but we regrouped and battled hard. The game could have gone either way.”
Gens’ starter Michael Gudmandson took the loss in net.
“Without question Goody didn’t have his best night, and he’s the first to admit that,” said Johnston, then made the point, “we need better goaltending then we got last night.”
On the upside, Oceanside’s forechecking was ferocious, and the Generals were trying to take the body. Forward Cam McCarrick was a one-man wrecking crew Wednesday.
This is ‘Yammers fourth and final season with the Generals, and the club’s all-time leading scorer continues to lead by example out there, as evident by his selection as the games third star.
“Everything about the way he plays is fantastic,” Johnston said. “We get everything out of him we could hope for every single night.”
Yamasaki, from Nanaimo, has been the Generals’ ironman since he arrived in 2007.
“Honestly I cant remember him ever missing a game because he was hurt. Ever.”
Other bright spots on the night included the energizer efforts of Haugen, who, confirmed his coach, “was absolutely outstanding. He’s playing at a whole ‘nother level and I can tell you at the end of this season that will be the last we see of Dylan Haugen — they’ll be lining up (to sign him to Jr. A).”
Peninsula finished the VIJHL’s 2011/2012 42-game regular season with a record of 17-21-4 (38 pts) for 5th in the seven-team league, while the Generals were 4th at 20-20-2 (42 pts).
Oceanside’s regular season goals for-and-against was 144-173; Peninsula was 155-194.
The Generals are down Island Friday looking to even their best-of-seven series against the Panthers, and the two teams are back at it at ‘the Place Saturday for Game 3 (7:30 p.m. start).