The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals learned a lesson but it was a costly one.
Instead of tying their Vancouver Island Junior Hockey playoff series 2-2 against the Victoria Cougars, the Generals find themselves down 3-1 and face a must-win situation in Game 5 at Archie Browning Arena Thursday at 7 p.m. in Victoria.
The Generals were defending a 2-1 lead but gave up two goals in the last three minutes of the final frame to end up suffering a tough 3-2 loss in front of disappointed fans at Oceanside Place Tuesday night.
“The big learning lesson for our kids is you don’t play 57 minutes of hockey,” said the club’s general manager and assistant coach Andrew Riddell, who took over the head coaching duties with assistant coach Chris Lennox while head coach Dan Lemmon and assistant coach Scott Bickerton sit out three -game suspensions. They will be back behind the bench in Game 5.
“The other team played 60 minutes of hockey and they’re going right to the whistle. We played the other night where we tied it up with seven seconds left and that’s because we were playing 60 minutes of hockey. Tonight we played 57 minutes of hockey and unfortunately the last three minutes we weren’t playing hockey and it cost us a big game.”
The Generals, after trailing 2-0 in the series, bounced back to win one in Victoria on Sunday. They had momentum going into Tuesday night’s Game 4 and it showed in the first two periods.
It was the Cougars that took the initial lead on a power-play goal by Spencer Golden at 6:32. The Generals stormed back and played a physical game for the rest of the period. It paid off as Brady Kay tied it up 1-1 at 15:42.
In the second period, the Generals energetic offence kept the Cougars on the defensive. Greyson Weme was able to fire a shot that was initially blocked by Victoria goaltender Owen Sikkes but wasn’t able to control the rebound which was picked up Dayton Keith who slotted the puck from the out-of-position keeper to give Oceanside a 2-1 lead.
In the third, the Cougars shifted to a higher gear offensively and at 16:18, Jaden McNulty tied it up which re-energized the Cougars, who continued to press the Oceanside defence. With two minutes left, the Generals defence had trouble clearing the puck from their zone and weren’t able to get some fresh legs in to face the Cougars’ unrelenting onslaught.
The defence made a crucial error and it was all the Cougars needed as Mateo Albinati found the back of the net at 19:28 to give Victoria the win.
“We didn’t get the puck out and then we hit the rafters and we iced it,” Riddell explained. “The guys stayed out and didn’t get off when we iced it so we had some tired guys. We called a time out to rest the guys. I don’t know. It’s just one of those plays that you can’t explain. You’ll never really know what kids are thinking in their heads when they’re on the ice. We had some younger guys out there and probably the first time they found themselves in that position. It’s unfortunate we had to learn that lesson when we did at this point of the year.”
Although the loss was tough to take, Riddell believes the Generals will come out strong on Thursday night.
He bases that on the heartbreaking double overtime loss they suffered in Game 2 also at Oceanside Place.
“We bounced back after the second game and I think it just comes down to having a short memory and understanding that you got to win four games,” said Riddell.
“Right now we’re down 3-1 and we need to rely on our captains, our 20-year-olds and our coaching staff. Coach Lemmon and Bickerton have been out in the last three games and they will be back.
“We will rally around we can possibly rally around and try to get it done.”
If the Generals win tonight’s game, Game 6 will be at Oceanside Place at 7 p.m.