By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The final game of the regular season was a mere formality for the Oshawa Generals.
Yet, more than 6,000 fans filled the General Motors Centre to watch the Gens fall short 4-2 against the Ottawa 67s in the final game of their regular season.
Attesting to the non-importance of the game, head coach Bob Jones had several of his key players watching the game from the stands, with captain Anthony Cirelli, Mitch Vande Sompel, Joe Manchurek and Jalen Smerek all out of the lineup to avoid injury ahead of the team’s first round match-up with the Kingston Frontenacs.
“You’re worried that your players won’t be engaged in the game and someone gets hurt,” Jones said following the loss.
The Generals opened the scoring in the first period off the stick of Riley Stillman. Domenic Commisso extended the lead to two before the end of the first frame.
However, the remainder of the offense came from Ottawa, who scored four unanswered goals on starter Justin Nichols to take the game.
With several big names out of the roster, the game offered the opportunity for Oshawa’s youth to shine and also highlighted some of the club’s up and coming talent with defenseman Matt Stoia and winger Adam Kozlowski getting some ice time.
All the Generals will be busy this week preparing for the first game of the playoff series with the Frontenacs on March 25 in Kingston. For many Generals, it will be their first experience of the Ontario Hockey League post-season.
“We’re fortunate to be there in the playoffs…we’re going to work as hard as we can and see how it goes,” said Jack Studnika, Oshawa’s first-round pick in 2015.
Cirelli said much of the same and knows what Oshawa is up against with the Frontenacs, some of whom he knows personally, having won the Memorial Cup last season with Michael Dal Colle and Stephen Desrocher, both traded to Kingston earlier this season.
“They’re an older team, a stronger team, and they’re built to win so we know what we’re up against, so we’re just going to go in there and play.”
Behind the bench, Jones knows a lot will have to go right for his young team to pull off the upset.
“They’ve shown they’re the top team. We slid in there on the eighth seed and, you know, it’s a big hill to climb,” he says. “We’re happy to be in there and it a great experience for us and we’ll see what happens.
“Kingston is a team that’s going for it. They’re battle-tested, they made a lot of moves to get bigger and stronger down the stretch and, like I said, it’s a big hill to climb, but we’re certainly going to go in there and give it our best.”
While nothing has been confirmed at this point, it is a safe bet to say that Jeremy Brodeur will be the go-to goalie for the Gens and he knows he will have to be on his against the Frontenacs who have several snipers and serious speed.
“You go to play the puck behind the net and their guys are right on you,” Brodeur says. “You’ve just got to be real focused.”
Puck drops on the Generals post-season this Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26 in Kingston for the first two games of the series. After that, the series returns to Oshawa on March 29 and March 31. Puck drop for both home games is set for 7:05 p.m.