For 52 minutes, the Quality Foods Oceanside Generals skated toe-to-toe with the top team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Over the last eight minutes, however, the visiting Victoria Cougars demonstrated how they got to the top.
Victoria (27-8-0-4) parlayed a neutral-zone turnover and a defensive breakdown into a three-goal blitz over the final 7:04 and stormed from behind for a 5-3 win that quieted a lively crowd of nearly 200 fans at Oceanside Place.
“We’ve shown we can play with any team in this league for periods at a time,” Generals head coach Gerry Bickerton said. “We have to put it together for 60 minutes. We were pretty close tonight; I give our guys credit. We played a hard, tough game, even with those two mistakes at the end.”
Stratton Pickett’s point-blank goal at 11:37 of the third period gave the Generals (10-25-1-1) a 3-2 lead in the fast-paced game. Caleb Griffin set up the play by winning a battle in the corner and skating the puck behind the Victoria net. Griffin then chipped the puck to the crease, where both Pickett and teammate Logan Savard had crashed goalie Liam McCloskey’s front porch.
“I just went to the net,” said Pickett. “Savo (Savard) was there too, and he threw it out front and it just happened to get to me on the back door and I happened to put it in. It was fun.”
Pickett, an 18-year-old from Bassano, AB, was playing the second of back-to-back games. One night earlier, he skated with the Junior A Alberni Valley Bulldogs in Nanaimo, part of a nearly two-week stint with the club.
Signed to provide depth to the Bulldogs’ depleted forward corps, Pickett did more than provide a bench presence. He scored a point in his first game as a Bulldog, against Prince George, then scored his first Junior A goal in a win over Merritt on a road trip that included a stop in Wenatchee, Wash.
“It was something else; I’ve never had that experience before,” Pickett said of his run with the Bulldogs.
Landon Dziadyk and Blake McCulloch also scored for the Generals, who return home to host Campbell River Saturday at 7:30 p.m.