Nobody said it was going to be easy.
It’s back to the drawing board this week for the Save-On-Foods Oceanside Generals, as they look to rebound from a pair of sobering losses to the VIJHL’s top two teams, snap a six-game winless streak, and start to dig themselves out of their early-season hole.
“It’s a long season and we have a team that’s going to be very competitive,” Rob Gaudreault, former assistant in his second week as the Generals’ interim head coach said after Saturday’s loss at home to the Nanaimo Buccaneers. Gaudreault took over the helm after the Sept. 28 release of Brent Demerais.
“Once they start believing in themselves and they get on a roll you’ll see a lot of the attitudes changing, and for the good. A lot of guys are frustrated, sometimes making things different makes people uneasy too, so I think the biggest thing is just to regroup, get back to the basics, and we’ll go hard. I think the biggest thing is just for the boys to think about their game and to stay positive; let’s get rid of the negative, stay on the positive side, and things will turn around.”
At home at ‘the Place Saturday night against a Nanaimo Buccaneers team coming off their first loss of the season, the Generals battled but came up on the short end of a 7-1 final.
The Bucs struck for two early goals and were leading 2-0 five minutes in when Cory Burnett scored for Oceanside, who trailed 2-1 after 20 minutes.
The Gens dug deep and looked to be wrestling momentum away from the visitors in the second but former General Noah Russi from Parksville buried a booming one-timer low blocker side to make it 3-1 at 16:35 on the power-play, and Nanaimo struck again 18 seconds later to take a 4-1 lead into the final frame, with a two minute power play.
The Bucs scored shorthanded at 5:42 and added two more down the stretch to nail down the W.
Nanaimo outshot Oceanside 15-5 in the second period and 44-15 on the game. Gens’ backup ‘tender Alex Olson from Langley faced a lot of rubber, made some sparkling saves, and let in a couple he’d like to have back.
Nanaimo was handed their first regular season loss last Thursday — a 5-4 final at the hands of the Campbell River Storm.
That night the Generals were in Victoria were they were outshot 46-17 and clobbered 8-2 by the Cougars.
Victoria scored just over a minute in and led 3-0 after 20. The only remaining undefeated team in the league, the 10-0 Cougars were 4-for-7 on the power play, the Gens 1-for-7.
Brodie Smith and Domenic Kolbeins scored for Oceanside. Liam Giroux was in net.
Back at ‘the Place Saturday, the frustration was evident on the faces of more than one Gen, and tempers boiled over with under five minutes remaining when Ethan Larson was given the gate for fighting after winning a clear decision.
The loss drops the Generals to 1-10-1 on the season, last in the nine-team league.
“I thought that was probably our best game (in a while), that we actually came out with fire,” said Gaudreault. “The first period was one of our best periods lately and the second period, same thing again, we came out pretty good, but for a six minute period there we kind of relaxed a little bit, maybe could have went a little harder, and then the third period just fell apart a lot of it due to some undisciplined penalties.”
After the game Bucs’ head coach Brad Knight put things into perspective.
“I though Parksville gave us a really good push in the first period… I thought we handled ourselves well.
“I like the Generals,” he said. “We want them to be competitive, we want the best for their organization. It’s a great rivalry for us — it was excellent last year. We know they’ve had some hard times, but you know what, we all do. I thought the (Oceanside) kids worked hard tonight, and I think they’re doing the best job that they can under the circumstances.”
On the learning curve that is part and parcel with any young team, and with only one 20-year-old on the roster the Gens are a young team, Knight made the point that last year the Bucs iced 18, 17 year- olds “so we know exactly what they’re going through. The most important thing for them is to realize that 10 games to a rookie is like 20, so they’ll get that experience, and they’ll be a totally different team down the road.”
ICE CHIPS: When it rains it pours. A week after we reported the Gens signing of local D-Man Kade Pilton comes word the big 19-year-old blueliner may be calling it a season. Pilton didn’t dress on the weekend, and while one report has him already having cleared out his locker so to speak, “he may still be back. It’s a little bit of a surprise,” said Gaudreault. “He has a great attitude, he’s a great leader and we loved having him on the bench.”
GAME ON: The Generals are in Campbell River to take on the Storm (5-4-1-1) in a big North Division clash Friday night, then home Saturday to tangle with the Westshore Wolves (5-6-1-1) at 7:30 p.m.