The Quality Foods Oceanside Generals kicked off the exhibition portion of their 2016-17 hockey season with a pair of matching 4-3 losses at Campbell River Friday and at home against Kerry Park Saturday night.
Of course, with the first counting game of the season still in front of them, the Generals are playing less for wins than for spots on the team — a point that had to be driven home less than nine minutes into Saturday’s game at Oceanside Place Arena.
“I just hate to use a time out at that point in the game,” said Gerry Bickerton, who had to do just that after the Gens surrendered three goals in a three-minute stretch. “It got a little scrambley there. We were playing flat-footed and they jumped all over us. We just sort of had to remind them that there were still guys trying to earn their spots on the team.”
The chat — and an extended version of the same at intermission— seemed to do the trick.
The Generals played the visitors evenly the remainder of the first period, then needed just 11 seconds of the second period to get on the board when Cam Nickerson converted a gift turnover into a quick wrist shot that made it 3-1.
Less than two and a half minutes later, Landon Dziadyk waded into a scrum in front of Kerry Park goalie Chase Anderson and punched home a rebound to make it 3-2.
“We just reminded the guys there was still a lot of time in the game,” said Bickerton, in his first season as the team’s head coach. “Three goals in Junior B hockey isn’t a lot; we told them they just needed to keep chipping away.”
With second-year goalie Matt Henwood having slammed the door on the Islanders after their brief early flurry, the Gens completed their comeback and tied it 3-3 on an unassisted goal by prospect Drew Fudger at 13:33 of the third period.
“It was nice; it was a big weight off my shoulders to get my first goal as a General,” said Fudger, a 17-year-old from Prince Rupert who played for the provincial Tier 4 midget champions last season.
Fudger said he hasn’t felt overwhelmed by the jump from Tier 4 midget to Junior B hockey, since he’s attended camps and played briefly as an affiliate player with the Kelowna Chiefs junior team last year.
“I know the routine,” he said. “I feel pretty confident.”
Unfortunately, Fudger’s goal went for naught when a cross-checking penalty with 44 seconds remaining led to the game-winning goal from Kerry Park’s Eric Leblanc, who lifted a short-range rebound over Henwood after the goalie made a pad save.
“(Against Campbell River) we were a bit undisciplined and took too many penalties, and obviously tonight we got off to a slow start,” Bickerton said. “But overall it’s been a good start. The boys are battling well, and some of the young guys are really stepping up.”
Above, Oceanside Generals forward Landon Dziadyk celebrates his second-period goal during Saturday’s game against Kerry Park at Oceanside Place Arena. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/NEWS staff