Special teams proved the difference as a special season ended for the Oceanside Midget Generals with a 5-2 loss to Cowichan Valley in the Vancouver Island Tier 2 playoffs Saturday.
The visiting Capitals used a power-play score and an empty-net goal in the final seven and a half minutes to break open what had been a see-saw, one-goal contest at Howie Meeker Arena.
“I think we were in it the whole game,” Generals coach Clinton Sutherland said. “We sat in the (penalty) box for a little there and they took advantage of their power plays. We weren’t able to when we had power plays, and I think that was the difference.”
With the semifinal victory, Cowichan Valley moves into a best-of-3 Tier 2 Island finals series against the winner of the other semifinal, between Campbell River and Peninsula. The winner of that series will move on to the 2017 provincial championships March 19-23 in Port Coquitlam.Oceanside’s Christian Stokes had tied the game 2-2 at 2:14 of the second period when he collected a pass from Duncan Cairns in stride and flipped it past Capitals goalie Chris Akerman from the low slot.
Oceanside midget Noah Seselja changes direction on a rush into the Cowichan Valley zone during Saturday’s Tier 2 hockey playoff semifinal game at Oceanside Place in Parksville. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS
Three minutes later, however, Cowichan answered on a similar play, with Luke Handel pushing the shot just inside the left post as Generals goalie Tyler Blaine slid to cover the open right side of the net.
The score remained 3-2 for the next 27 minutes, even as Oceanside made a strong push through the first half of the third period.
“I felt being down one goal throughout the game wasn’t a bad thing at all, because any team that scored it was a huge momentum swing,” said Sutherland. “It was two teams playing good hockey and you could tell the whole game something was gonna give. Either way, there was gonna be a break.”
That break came when the Generals were whistled for a penalty at 12:13 of the third. It took just 24 seconds for Cowichan’s Parker Bergstrom to roof a power-play goal through traffic and just under the crossbar from the right circle, giving the Caps a 4-2 lead with 7:23 to play.
Oceanside would then earn a 5-on-3 penalty kill that was abbreviated when Cowichan was whistled for a check to the head midway. After his squad killed its penalties and went on the power play, Sutherland called his time out during a face-off in the Capitals’ zone and pulled Blaine to set up a 6-on-4 with 1:46 remaining.
“We thought with the face-off in their end there it would be our best chance to make something happen,” said Sutherland. “Unfortunately, we didn’t win the draw.
Cowichan kept the puck to the corners before chipping it from the zone just as Griffin Webb emerged from the penalty box behind the Generals defence. Webb gathered the puck and calmly skated in alone to score into the empty net with 1:07 to play.
“It was a tough way to end,” Sutherland said. “The guys played with a lot of energy, and our goalie made some huge saves. A great effort.”