Sunday’s 3-2 Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League loss felt like a punch to the nose to the Quality Foods Oceanside Generals.
For defenseman Dawson Wolf, that wasn’t just a metaphor.
After outshooting the visiting Peninsula Panthers 20-10 and grabbing a 2-1 first-period lead, the Generals lost their momentum — and Wolf — as the Panthers clawed their way back for the road win before a matinee crowd of 120.
“It’s a shame, against a team I thought we should have beat tonight,” Generals head coach Jesse Hammill said. “We did the same thing in Saanich, giving up a 4-0 lead. That’s four points we’ve given away here; we could have put some distance between ourselves and Comox, and we didn’t.”
The loss left Oceanside with a 2-4 VIJHL record, two points ahead of Comox Valley (1-5) in the North Division standings.
The Generals hadn’t played for eight days, since posting an overtime win over Comox in their home opener the previous Saturday. But there was little rust as the team moved the puck crisply and kept the Panthers (2-3) pinned in their own end for much of the first period.
Goals by Koby Adams-Loitz at 9:29 and Ethan Trampuh on a power play at 16:50 staked the hosts to a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.
Wolf was forced from the game with a broken nose in the period, which left the Generals’ bench thin when they commenced on a parade to the penalty box in the second period.
“I was skating down the boards to make a hit,” said Wolf. “When I hit the guy, his helmet came back up and hit me in the nose.”
A similar hit a week earlier left Wolf with a concussion, but he was cleared to skate Sunday after practicing with the team Thursday evening.
“Yeah, I’m all roughed up,” he said while holding an ice pack to his nose after the game. “Rough week.”
The Generals were whistled for the first three penalties of the second period, and Peninsula used the reprieve to break out of its own defensive zone.
The visitors did not exactly cover themselves in glory on the attack, but they prevented the Generals from regaining the stranglehold they enjoyed in the opening period.
“We got in deep and put pressure on them (in the first period),” said Hammill. “They don’t like to play in their own zone, that was obvious. They have a real hard time containing a team that can move the puck and we did that to them.
“When we allowed them to get out of their zone and put pressure on us, I think we made really bad decisions with the puck at key times. But I don’t think they had sustained pressure on us too much.”
The game turned into a back-and-forth affair, with both teams largely settling for single shots that were quickly cleared.
“I think we played perimeter for the first time this season,” said Hammill. “Shots were coming from the point and we didn’t have anyone there. We tried to beat guys on the rush instead of making the easy play.”
Peninsula broke through for the tying goal on one of the few rebounds it reached. After Generals goalie Aaron Jakubowsky turned aside a shot by Josh Lingard from the bottom of the circle to his left, the Panthers’ Riley Braun tapped home the puck from the back side to make it 2-2 at 17:00 of the second.
The game-winner came just moments after Peninsula successfully killed an Oceanside power play, when Brendan Martin pounced on a blue-line turnover and skated in alone to beat Jakubowski on a breakaway at 1:28 of the third.
“The goal they scored for the third goal, it bounced over our guy’s stick; it happens,” said Hammill. “That’s not human error; it’s just tough luck.”
The Generals finished with a 34-23 edge in shots on goal.
“We had lots of chances to win that game,” Hammill said.
The Generals’ next chance at the win column comes this weekend, when they host back-to-back games against Kerry Park at 7 p.m. Friday and against North Division-leading Campbell River at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Both games will be played at Howie Meeker Arena at Oceanside Place.