If push-backs were worth points, the Gens would have bagged more than one on Saturday.
The VIJHL’s last place Save-On-Foods Oceanside Generals brought their work boots to the rink at Howie Meeker Arena Saturday night, pushing the league-leading Nanaimo Buccaneers to overtime in a thriller ,only to come up short 4-3.
Easily the Gens’ best game of the season thus far, the retooled squad played fast, physical hockey and gave Nanaimo all they could handle.
“That game could have gone either way,” said one fan.
Both teams came out of the gates on fast forward: Chase Gaudreault opened the scoring with a hard snapper at 17:09 on what was the Generals’ third consecutive power play, and Oceanside took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Generals, now 2-16-1-1, had led after 20 minutes only three other times in the previous 19 games.
Nanaimo, sitting tops in the VIHJL standings at 16-3, tied it up six minutes into the second, but big, new forward Greg Johnson from Alaska buried his first with his new team on the power play 60 seconds later to put the Gens back up 2-1. Nanaimo scored at 12:54 and the teams were tied after 40 minutes.
Nate Fitzpatrick scored at 11:35 of the third to put Oceanside up 3-2, and the Bucs got a break when the linesman’s skate accidentally kept in a clearing shot at the blueline and scored at 12:41 for a 3-3 tie. The teams forced overtime and the Bucs stole the win 42 seconds into the five minute, four-on-four on a breakaway.
“I thought the kids on both teams played a great game. It was real physical. It was really emotional. It was good, old fashioned hockey and it was fun,” Bucs’ head coach Brad Knight said after the game.
“We had a lot of opportunities — I thought we actually deserved to win that one,” shrugged Gens’ head coach Dan Lemmon, and added at this point he’ll take the single point, and that “there’s lots of positive stuff coming from it. I mean we’re working hard, we’re playing hard, the guys are being physical, and that’s something we’re going to have to do to win games in this league.”
Nanaimo’s tying goal was made possible when a Generals player routinely chipped the puck out along the boards but it hit the official’s skate at the blueline, stayed in, and the Bucs jumped on it.
Generals’ goalie Evgueni Makarski made 36 saves and was named the games’ first star. Makarski, from Ontario, made some dandy stops Saturday, including a huge pad save at the sound of the buzzer to end the first period.
“He made some stellar saves for us, no question,” said Lemmon. “He’s been real good for us all three games that he’s started.”
All over the ice Saturday was AP Trent Bell, 16, from Nanoose Bay, called up from the North Island Silvertips of the B.C. Major Midget League. Trent is the younger brother of former Gens’ captain Nick Bell.
“He was our best player on Friday night against Peninsula, finishing everything,” said Lemon. He’s pretty raw with his skating stride but he’s very fast and he likes to throw his weight around, so he’s a perfect AP for my type of hockey. “
Also earning props from the coach for his play was speedy forward Nate Fitzpatrick, 20, from Michigan.
“I thought he had a real good game up the middle for us tonight.
“We’ve brought in nine new faces in the last two weeks or so, so we’re starting to solidify our group,” said Lemmon. “We’re still a team that needs to get some wins, so we’re actively always looking to get better. That being said, the group that we have in the room now is real positive, it’s all good kids in there now. Obviously we’re a team that needs to win, we need to win now if we want to make the playoffs, so we’re going to be doing everything in our power to win hockey games and develop the kids we do have here.”
ON FRIDAY, The Generals lost 4-1 to the Panthers in Peninsula. Peninsula opened the scoring at 6:12 and added another on the power play less than two minutes later to go up 2-0.
Liam Peel scored for Oceanside at 16:04 to cut it to 2-1 after 20 minutes. Peninsula outshot Oceanside 14-3 in the third and 34-17 on the night. Liam Giroux was in net for the Gens.
GAME ON: The Generals have a home and home against the 12-8-0-1 Glacier Kings this weekend with game one in Comox Friday and game two at Howie Meeker Arena Saturday. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. both games.