The Oceanside Generals have clinched the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League regular season title.
They achieved this when they beat the host Campbell River Storm 7-3 on Feb. 10. Then the next night, the smouldering Generals set a new VIJHL win streak record when they garnered their 19th consecutive victory by beating the visiting Westshore Wolves 7-4 in front of a nearly packed gallery at Oceanside Place on Saturday night (Feb. 11).
Head coach Dan Lemmon said the milestones are a team effort and a result of the hard work the Generals have put in this season.
“We’re putting a banner in the Howie Meeker Arena for the first time since 2009,” said Lemmon. “That was a special moment.”
Lemmon added that setting a new VIJHL win streak record that following night was another exciting achievement for the Generals.
“It’s a special night,” said Lemmon. “You don’t win 19 games in a row on the basis of one guy being a really good player or five guys really doing a good job. It shows the depth of our team. At different moments in the season during this win streak for sure, we’ve got scoring from our 16-year-old players, our 17-year-old players our D-men, goalies making the big saves. It’s a team streak. That’s what I am most proud of.”
Lemmon said he does his best to keep his players focused and down to earth. But he admits there are moments when the Generals tend to be complacent and it happened against the Wolves.
“That’s the hardest thing we’re dealing with,” said Lemmon. “In the last few games, there has been some complacency for sure. I don’t thing we’re paying the price in our D-zone as much as we had been.
“We’re scoring a lot of goals right now, so to put in the work and take the hits, to block the shots, those are hard plays that you need to be a good team in your own zone. I think we haven’t done the best job with that over the last few games, but we’ve done enough of it to get the wins.”
The Generals found themselves trailing 1-0 before they got their aggressive forechecking game going. They scored twice on goals by defenceman Ethan Hawes and Brady O’Brien to end the first period with a 2-1 lead. In the second they were held to just one goal, netted by the Generals’ and the league’s leading scorer, Carter Johnson.
In the final frame, the Generals had some lapses in their game that allowed the Wolves to level things at 3-3. The Generals quickly turned things around and scored three unanswered goals, with Jacob Thomas finding the back of the net twice, and one from Braeden Leary to regain the lead 6-3.
The Wolves were able to score a goal to make it 6-4 and late in the period pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. But their last gasp effort ended in vain as the Generals’ Dante Paziuk was able to fire the puck into the empty net.
Goaltender Ashton Sadauskas turned away enough shots to earn his 19th win between the pipes. He is 19-2 so far this season.
Prior to the home game against the Wolves, the Generals collected two wins on the road, beating the Port Alberni Bombers 5-2 (Feb. 8), and Campbell River Storm 7-3 (Feb. 10).
D-man Hawes scored his first two goals in the VIJHL to lead the Generals against the Bombers with one goal each coming from Benjamin Groome, Aidan Mailhot and Paziuk.
Against the Storm, Thomas paced the Generals with three goals while Paziuk had two markers with Johnson, who also had four assists, and Leary adding a goal apiece.
Lemmon said while they’re excited to win the regular season championship banner, it’s not what they’re truly after.
“It’s not what we’re looking for,” said Lemmon. “We want to win the playoffs and we want to win the provincials. Those are our goals. There’s still a long way to go before we get that done. We still have a lot more games to play.”
Lemmon said they’re not going to rest on their laurels and will continue to hone their game.