By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Erie Otters were sweating. Perhaps out of hard work on the ice, but perhaps from the nervous feeling sinking in their stomachs as the Oshawa Generals scored three goals, including a pair from Cole Cassels, in the third period of Game 3 in what looked like a valiant comeback.
However, it would prove not enough, and the Otters went on to win a game that would have left them with a 3-0 hill to climb.
The first game in Erie on May 11 followed a pair of games in Oshawa on May 8 and 9 that saw Oshawa dominate the play, winning both games with scores of 4-1 and 5-1 respectively.
In Game 2, Oshawa did something no other team has been able to do all season long: keep Connor McDavid off the scoreboard.
Following the Game 3 loss, head coach DJ Smith said he thought his team deserved a little better.
“I thought we had a good first period…I had us out-chancing them,” Smith says.
No goals were scored in a back and forth second period with Erie leading 2-0.
In the third, the Gens stormed back with three goals to get back in the game, but it wasn’t enough.
Smith says his team made a few key mistakes that eventually cost them the game.
McDavid, back on home ice, was able to get back on the scoresheet with a goal and an assist.
Smith also said the Otter seem intent on trying to get McDavid away from the Generals’ strong shut-down defense.
“They certainly are trying real hard to get him away from our shutdown guys. So, he gets loose and he’s the best player in the world for a reason and if I don’t have my five best defensive guys out there, he’s going to be dangerous.”
Following Game 3, McDavid said he felt he had a little bit more room to move on the ice, but not much.
“They still play a very tight defensive game, but obviously having last change helps,” he said.
For Cassels, despite the hard-fought third period that ended in the loss, he says the Generals are confident going into Wednesday’s game.
“If we can string together a couple periods there, the first and second, then we know we finish strong in the third. So that’s our goal, to start off strong in the first and second,” Cassels said.
The puck drops on Game 4 at 7:35 p.m. in Erie before the series returns to Oshawa for Game 5 on May 15.