The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals didn’t play at their highest level, but still managed to beat the Westshore Wolves 5-1 in Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League action at Oceanside Place on Saturday night. That level wasn’t good enough Sunday, when the Generals returned to Howie Meeker Arena and dropped a 3-1 decision to the Victoria Cougars.
“They’re a quick team and they brought it to us,” Oceanside coach Jesse Hammill said of the Cougars. “They kind of did to us what we do to teams in the first period.”
The weekend split left the Generals with a 5-7-1-1 overall record, good for third place in the VIJHL North Division. Victoria, a perennial league powerhouse that has gotten off to a shaky start this season, came into the game on a two-game losing streak but improved to 6-5-0-0.
“We’re close,” Hammill said. “When the work ethic’s there as a whole, all 20 guys, it’s real good. And we get bounces.”
The struggle over the weekend came from the Generals bouncing in and out of the penalty box, blunting the team’s opportunity to generate steady scoring chances.
On Sunday, the visiting Cougars raced out of the gate, outshooting Oceanside 16-6 and netting the game’s first goal on a power play. Victoria pushed its lead to 2-0 with another goal in the opening five minutes of a penalty-plagued second period.
Ethan Trampuh drew the Gens to 2-1 when he converted off an assist from Noah Goyer at 12:30 of the second, but the hosts were outshot 21-10 in the period as the Cougars continued to carry the run of play. Victoria made it 3-1 on the game’s final tally with just over a minute remaining in the period.
“We stood around and watched (the Cougars); that’s what’s disappointing,” said Hammill.
The third period was an even affair, with both teams putting 10 shots on goal. But the Generals were unable to push the puck past Victorial goalie Patrick Ostermann and chip into the Cougars’ lead.
Despite Saturday’s win over the South Division-leading Westshore (8-6-0-1), Hammill said the Generals failed to play to their potential. It was also fortunate that the Wolves had an off night.
Hammill said both teams were just awful through a first period that ended in a scoreless tie.
“It was sloppy,” said Hammill. “It was an ugly first period. There was really nothing that was happening. We did the simple things wrong and we tried to make the hard things good.”
The Generals game was vastly improved in the second period. Coming out with more energy at the start, they were able to net a quick goal by Landon Dziadyk, just 31 seconds into the period. That led to two more goals, scored unassisted by Brady Kay at 4:03 and, 30 seconds later, Jared Winkel also netted an unassisted goal to make it 3-0. At 8:55 Ethan Trampuh found the net to make it 4-0. The Wolves avoided the shutout when they netter their lone goal at 18:02.
In the third period, things got a little chippy and the Generals ended up killing six successive penalties, including a 5-on-3. The Generals frustrated the Wolves even more when they scored one more goal late in the period at 18:23, by Greyson Weme.
The Generals came into the season with a young, untested lineup and few expectations. But 14 games into the 2017-18 campaign they have won more games than a year ago, when they started 4-9-0-1.
“How can you be disappointed with .500 every weekend?” Hamill said. “We’re ahead of the curve; we’re super close. A lot of people say, ‘Man, you guys are way better than we thought you’d be.’ That’s great. We are, but we think we should be a little further ahead.”
Hammill also said there is no plan to “panic” with roster moves that would jettison young players in exchange for one or two veterans in a short-term push for playoff positioning.
“That’s not our mantra,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re building from the ground up. We don’t want to start thinking, ‘Oh, we’re close; let’s get a couple of 20-year-olds.’”
The Generals will wrap up October with another pair of back-to-back league games, this time a home-and-away series beginning with a trip to Rod Brind’Amour Arena Friday to face the Campbell River Storm at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, Oceanside returns home to host the North-leading Nanaimo Buccaneers at 7 p.m.
— With files from J.R. Rardon