By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It was a strong finish to the regular season for the Oshawa Generals and an exclamation point on the second half of the year which saw them go 21-13 as they defeated the Sudbury Wolves 4-2 at the Tribute Communities Centre on March 18.
Allan McShane started the scoring for Oshawa in the first period with his 20th goal of the season, with a helper from Joseph Rupoli, marking the first point of his Ontario Hockey League career. However, before the first frame wrapped up, Sudbury would manage one of their own to send the game tied into the second period.
After a Sudbury goal near the halfway mark of the period, another General would mark a career milestone in the final game of the regular season as Mitchell Hewitson grabbed a loose puck in front of the net and put in his first goal in the OHL.
“It was surreal, I can’t believe,” the rookie Gen said after the game. “I can’t even tell you. I’m still lost for words, it was such an amazing feeling, and obviously with such a big crowd tonight with out last regular season game, it was definitely really exciting.”
After Hewitson’s goal, Domenico Commisso would put the Generals up by two with a power play goal, quickly followed by Eric Henderson to put Oshawa up 4-2, where the score would stay for the remainder of the third period.
With the regular season wrapped up, Oshawa now turns their minds to the first round of playoff hockey, which will see them face off against the Niagara IceDogs in round one, a team they’ve only seen twice in the regular season, both of those games coming way back in October.
For coach Greg Nemisz, there’s not much that can be gleamed from those two meetings, both of which went to extra time with Oshawa losing the first matchup in overtime, before winning the second via a shootout.
“It feels like we’re playing a brand new team,” Nemisz says. “It’s going to be a really good series, they’re a talented hockey club that plays really, really fast and they have some really good high-end players offensively. For us, we’re going to have to play our game and be at the top of it to be successful.”
The same was said by goaltender Kyle Keyser, who will playing his first playoff series in a starting role.
“They’re a good team, they’re fast paced, they play with a lot of skill, play with a lot of speed, they’re going to be a handful, but I feel like the way we’ve been playing lately coming into this we’re confident,” he says.
After an injury riddled first half of the year, and starting the season without head coach Bob Jones behind the bench due to an illness that his kept him away all year, the Generals put together a second half that saw them clicking consistently and stringing together wins. It’s momentum that Keyser hopes will carry over into the playoffs.
“I feel in the second half when we started getting guys healthy again we showed what our capabilities were, I think we played a lot better hockey in the second half,” he says.
For captain Jack Studnicka, the wealth of playoff experience behind the bench will be a valuable resource for the team as they move into the pressure fuelled monster that is playoff hockey.
“You’ve got to keep your emotions in check in playoffs, you can’t get too high when things are going good and you can’t get too low when things are going low,” he says. “At the end of the day it’s a short series and you’ve got to keep your head level.”
The Generals will travel to Niagara for the first two games of the best-of-seven series taking place on March 23 and 25 before returning home for games three and four on March 27 and 29, both games are set for 7:05 p.m. puck drop at the TCC.