In their first games since being thrown together by a flurry of trades, the Quality Foods Oceanside Generals’ newest skaters weren’t exactly eased into play.
But, in back-to-back games against the top two teams in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, the Generals snared an overtime road win Friday at South Division-leading Saanich, then returned home Saturday and jumped to a 3-0 lead over the Campbell River Storm before succumbing to the North Division leaders, 5-3.
“I’m happy with the weekend,” Oceanside head coach Gerry Bickerton said. “If we’re able to bring that battle level in every game, those wins will start coming. Not only to have beat the top team in the south, but to be right here and carry the lead for the majority of this (Campbell River) game, it shows we’re getting close.”
The Generals (5-10-0-1) made three trades the week before last, shipping out forwards Brodie Smith and Matteo Giomo and defenseman David Smith and netting forwards Matt Rokosh and Caleb Griffin from Victoria, forward Koby Adams-Loitz from Fort St. John and forward Stratton Pickett and blueliner Topher Harding from Creston.
The club completed its overhaul last week by sending forward Cam Nickerson, the captain of the 2015-16 team, to Creston for two future considerations, Bickerton said.
“I think our roster changes have been huge for this team,” said Landon Dziadyk, a Qualicum Beach native who scored two of the Gens’ first-period goals against Campbell River (15-3-0-0). “I think we’re going in the right direction; we’re gelling together more as a team.”
Landon Dziadyk of the Oceanside Generals, centre, flips a pass ahead as Campbell River's Colton Rhodes defends during Saturday's VIJHL game at Oceanside Place Arena. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Brandon Roberge, who along with Ethan Sundstrom assisted on both of Dziadyk’s scores, added a goal when he snapped off a rocket in stride from the right circle to end a two-on-one rush with Max Creighton.
The odd-man rush was one of several in the early going for the Generals, who delivered a series of punishing hits.
“When we were hitting them, and on them, they were scared,” Bickerton said of the visitors. “When we were hitting them we had the momentum of the play. When we laid back on the hits, it gave them the room and space they need to make the plays they make as a skilled team.”
With last weekend’s split, Oceanside sits five points behind the Nanaimo Buccaneers for third place in the North.
The Generals will commence their November schedule with a trip to Nanaimo Thursday, the first time the teams will meet since the Bucs notched a 7-6 overtime win in the second game of the season, Sept. 8.
On Saturday, the Generals will be back at Oceanside Place for a 7:30 p.m. rematch with the Storm, who used goals by Zach Erhardt and Logan Cursley in the final seven minutes to complete their comeback from the 3-0 deficit.
“I think (Oceanside) came out with the mindset they were going to outwork the Campbell River Storm,” Campbell River assistant coach Mike Wilson said. “And for a while, they did a pretty effective job of that.
“We were pretty patient in getting back to working on our game, which is getting the puck in deep and keeping it in.”
The Generals needed just 11 minutes to craft their lead, and Campbell River spent the rest of the game chipping away at it.
Carter Hikichi got free on a breakaway and went over the shoulder of Gens’ goalie Brody Greggain to make it 3-1 at 13:00 of the first period, and Christian Brandt converted a one-timer from the circle on Hikichi’s pass from the boards at 14:42 of the second to make it a one goal game.
Oceanside’s lead held up until eight minutes into the third, when Brandt scored again on a rush to tie it.
The Generals managed just three shots in the third period and were outshot for the game, 39-16.
“I thought in the third period, in the key moments, we got a little soft in front of our own net,” said Bickerton. Those last two goals, you’re letting guys get loose, letting them get in that last little poke. Most of the game we took that away, in the key moments we didn’t. That’s the difference between winning and losing.”
Oceanside Generals defenseman Bekkam Willis dumps Campbell River's Reid Wilson along the boards during their teams' meeting Saturday at Oceanside Place Arena. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Generals 3, Saanich 2, OT
Much as the Storm did to them Saturday, the Generals rallied after surrendering a pair of first-period goals to the Braves.
Blueliner Josh Harvey got the comeback started in the opening minute of the second period when he converted off assists from Sundstrom and Roberge.
The newcomers got into the act at 14:29 of the second, when Griffin scored his third goal in four games with Oceanside, off assists from Pickett and Ryan Rae-Arthur.
Sundstrom, the Gens’ leading scorer with 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists, ended it just 20 seconds into overtime, off another Pickett assist.
Matt Henwood got the win in goal with a 40-save effort.