The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals have gotten to know the Nanaimo Buccaneers pretty well in recent days. And they will get to know them even better in the week ahead.
The Generals closed out their 2017-18 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League season with two games against the Bucs, falling 4-3 in overtime on Thursday, Feb. 15, in Nanaimo, and 5-2 Saturday night, Feb. 17, at home.
The rivalry between these two teams has peaked at the right time and it is expected to get more intense when they face each other in the first round of the VIJHL playoffs starting this Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Nanaimo.
Head coach Jesse Hammill said the best-of-seven playoff series is going to be a great one.
“No matter how it goes, no matter what the scores are, it’s going to be a hard-fought series,” said Hammill. “The team that can kind of hold their mettle and capitalize on their chances will win. (On Saturday) the Buccaneers capitalized on their chances and they won.”
In their final league match Saturday night, the Generals (18-23-1-6) played hard and challenged the Buccaneers at every shift. Hammill said the 5-2 score did not truly reflect the intensity of a game that featured fast-paced action, hard-hitting checks and also a few fights that led to game misconduct penalties.
Nanaimo (37-9-0-2) went up 1-0 in the first and made it 2-0 early in the second. But the Generals fought their way back and netted back-to-back goals by Elijah Goyer, who was named first star of the game, and Braeden Young. The Bucs regained the lead late in the period when Oceanside struggled to clear the puck during a scramble in front of its goal. The visitors went on to score two unanswered goals in the third.
“We had three, four good chances that we didn’t capitalize on, then they came and scored on the power play,” said Hammill. “We’ve got to clean that up. It’s another game. We didn’t get the points. We got to move on and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Generals finished the regular season ranked seventh in the league, and return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Throughout the regular season, the Generals made the Buccaneers, who have the most wins in the VIJHL this season, work hard for every point, Hammill said. He feels if his players stick with their plan, they can stretch their playoff series to the limit.
“We have to play a certain way,” said Hammill. “We have to be consistent and play 60 minutes every night. We might have to play 70 minutes or maybe 80 minutes. It’s going to be one of those series.”
Dylan Hartl, Buccaneers defenceman, said no matter the opponent, the Bucs try to play their own game, but they know the Gens will be competitive.
“You’ve got to expect everything out of them,” Hartl said. “We know they’re going to come hard; they’ve come hard every game. So we’ve just got to keep going.”
The Buccaneers and Generals play Game 1 on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7:15 p.m. at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Game 2 is Thursday, Feb. 22, also at 7:15 p.m. at the NIC. The series will move to Oceanside Place for Games 3-4, but dates and times have not yet been announced by the league.
— With files from
Nanaimo News Bulletin