By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The history didn’t look good for the Oshawa Generals.
Heading into their Feb. 21 matchup with the 67s, Oshawa had found themselves on the wrong end of the win column against the Ottawa club in each of their six previous matchups this season.
And it was a little bit of unfinished business for the Gens. After taking the 67s to overtime on Jan. 31, a game that would see Oshawa lose 5-4 in a shootout, the two teams once again found themselves in extra time at the General Motors Centre.
This time, however, it was Anthony Cirelli doing what he does best, stepping up off the rush and playing the hero to lead Oshawa to a 2-1 victory.
“It’s obviously the biggest win thus far,” said head coach Bob Jones after the game. “We’re at home playing a team that’s had our number all year, kind of, and it’s huge to get these two points.”
The win followed a pair of overwhelming losses over the weekend, first to the Kitchener Rangers 5-0 on Feb. 19, then to the Barrie Colts 6-2 on Feb. 20. The points were much needed to stay even with the Hamilton Bulldogs, who along with dropping two games over the weekend, pulled out two points in a over the Niagara IceDogs on Feb. 18.
Currently, Oshawa holds a 21-30-3-4 record and are deadlocked with the Bulldogs (21-30-7-0) for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The first win over Ottawa this season also saw another first from call-up Brock Welsh, who netted his first OHL point in the form of Oshawa’s first goal of the game.
Off a strong forecheck from Sullivan Sparkes, Welsh slipped the puck in from behind the net, tucking it in between the leg of Ottawa goaltender Leo Lazarev and the post.
“It’s something I’ll remember forever,” Welsh says of the crowd’s explosion when the puck found its way to the back of the net.
Thinking back, Welsh says it really wasn’t the way he imagined his first OHL career goal.
“I know I’ve talked to a couple guys in the room about how they got their first one. A bunch of them have not been pretty,” he says. “But you’ve got to start somewhere.”
The Barrie native has played in six games with Oshawa this season, sharing his time with the Whitby Fury, where he has 22 points in 28 games.
The strong play of the 17-year-old has caught the eye of the Oshawa coach.
“Any time a guy is a call up and comes up and contributes offensively, you’re very excited for him,” Jones says. “I’ve been very impressed with Brock our last two games, he’s showed me that he can play at this level.”
The Welsh goal early in the second period would be negated by a 67s powerplay goal later in the same frame.
The two clubs would remain locked at one until 24 seconds into overtime, when Cirelli made a spectacular play through the defense to slip the puck past Lazarev.
“You can’t say enough about Cirelli,” Jones said. “But I thought we had some great performances by a lot of guys tonight.”
This week, the Generals kick off a three-game home stand with a rare midweek home game tonight (Feb. 24) against the Mississauga Steelheads. Following that, Oshawa will face off with the visiting Kitchener Rangers on Feb. 27 and the Peterborough Petes on Feb. 28.