By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Oshawa’s Generals snapped a six-game losing skid over the weekend, defeating the Hamilton Bulldogs 5-2 at the General Motors Center.
For head coach Bob Jones, that win, which followed a shoot-out loss to the Ottawa 67’s on Jan. 22, couldn’t have come soon enough for his club, that was starting to lose a bit of its confidence.
“Athletes are fragile people at times and you’re in the game a lot of times, but when you don’t get any results it’s easy to lose your confidence,” he says. “A win is like medicine to these guys and everybody needed a little spoonful of medicine for sure.”
Things started early for Oshawa in the game when Kenny Heuther would slam home a pass from Joe Manchurek on the powerplay just over a minute into the first period.
The goal would remain as the sole marker in the period, despite a long powerplay attempt when Hamilton was sent off for five minutes for slew-footing. The powerplay opportunity also offered a brief five-on-three for Oshawa, but they were unable to find the back of the net.
Heuther would add his second of the game early in the second before the game would break open just passed the halfway point of the period. The Gens would score twice in a matter of 11 seconds.
First, Stephen Templeton would join the rush and find the back of the net for his first OHL goal.
Speaking after the game, Templeton said it was a relief to finally get it off his back, playing in 36 games last season and 44 this year without a goal. He says everyone in the dressing would take playful jabs at him about it, and sometimes even outside the dressing room.
“Even my billets have been giving it to me a little bit,” he said with a laugh.
Following Templeton’s marker, Eric Henderson would hit one in from a Robbie Burt shot to extend Oshawa’s lead to three goals.
In the third period, Hamilton would ruin the shutout for starter Jeremy Brodeur when they found the back of the net on the powerplay.
Oshawa would answer back on a 3-on-1 opportunity that saw Henderson make a perfect cross-crease pass to Domenic Commisso who easily found the back of the open net.
Hamilton would add another marker later in the final frame to bring the score to 5-2, but it’s as close as they would come and the Gens would hold on for the victory.
“I think we overloaded the puck well. We established a forecheck, and to be honest we scored on our chances,” Jones said following the win “We got some breaks around the net.”
And some of those breaks found their way onto the stick of Heuther, who along with a goal in the game, had 10 shots on net and 16 shot attempts in total. On top of that, Heuther now leads the club in scoring with 18 goals this season.
“I just started getting more opportunity,” Heuther says. “I like to be a dependable guy, I have a knack for scoring so I’m just going to keep throwing pucks on net.”
Heuther said the win was a big one for several reasons, in particular to lift the morale in the dressing room.
“It’s tough on us,” he said of the losing skid. “Obviously, nobody likes losing, to get this win, just means everything.”
It also means everything for Oshawa’s playoff chances, as the victory over Hamilton keeps them above the Bulldogs in the standings entering the home stretch of the season.
“Hamilton is right on our tail and we knew we had to win to keep this playoff spot,’ Heuther said.
Currently, Oshawa sits with 40 points in the Eastern Conference, holding down the final playoff spot, just above Hamilton’s 38 points.
Jones says there are many things the club is going to need for their final games before the playoffs including reliable goaltending and balanced scoring, something he saw both of in the win over Hamilton.
“We kind of like where were at right now and hopefully we can leave these guys together for a bit and gain some chemistry,” he says.
The Generals on back on the ice Friday (Jan. 29) when they take on the Barrie Colts at the General Motors Centre. Oshawa travels to Hamilton the following day for a rematch with the Bulldogs before returning home again on Sunday to face Ottawa.