By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It may come as a shock to some that the Oshawa Generals, one of the Ontario Hockey League’s youngest teams, is holding first place in the Eastern Conference. To the Gens, however, it’s no mistake.
“We always knew, right from camp, that we had a good team, we had good players. We always knew we could be at the top of the conference and it’s not a fluke to us that we’re up there right now,” says Eric Henderson, who got things started off for Oshawa on Oct. 30 when they defeated the Mississauga Steelheads 3-2 in overtime.
The victory followed a short road swing that saw the Gens lose to the North Bay Battalion on Oct. 27 in a shootout, but bounce back the next day to defeat the Sudbury Wolves 3-1.
Earning five of a possible six points in their last three games, Oshawa now sits with a 9-5-0-1 record for 19 points, ahead of the second place Hamilton Bulldogs with 17 points and the Peterborough Petes with 14.
“We struggled to start the year, but the last little while…the guys are buying in to what Bobby is teaching and they’re buying in and we’re getting results,” said assistance coach Nathan McIver of head coach Bob Jones.
“As a coaching staff, we have a lot of faith in the guys in the room and if we play our best every night, we’re going to have a chance to win.”
However, playing their best is not something the Generals did against the Steelheads on Sunday night. Despite jumping ahead to a 2-0 lead off the sticks of Henderson and rookie Danil Antropov, the team let the two-goal lead slip away. The Steelheads first struck in the second period on the powerplay to cut the lead to one.
In the third, it was OHL scoring leader Owen Tippet, who made his way through all five Generals before beating goaltender Jeremy Brodeur and sending the game to overtime.
The OT period was all Oshawa and the chances rained down on Mississauga goaltender Matthew Mancina. It was only a matter of time before one of Oshawa’s shots found the back of the net and it came off the stick of the club’s most recent acquisition, Medric Mercier.
Brodeur made 41 saves in the victory for his seventh win of the season.
“Tonight was one of those nights – third game in a weekend, a lot of travel and we probably didn’t have our best game and he was there for us tonight,” McIver says of Brodeur.
For Brodeur, the game was possibly his best of the season so far, and for him, he sees things really starting to come together for the team.
“I think the guys know how we’re capable of playing and when guys perform like the way they are lately, things are starting to click,” he says. “It’s a good feeling we have in the room right now.”
The Gens are back in action to defend their spot atop the Eastern Conference in a pair of games this weekend. First, they face off against the Owen Sound Attack on Nov. 4 before the Ottawa 67s roll into town on Nov. 6.