By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
It’s business as usual for the Generals after clinching a spot in the playoffs, according to general manager Roger Hunt.
Speaking with The Oshawa Express, Hunt explains the team hasn’t really been able to relax since clinching a spot in the playoffs, as right now they are in a stretch which will test the team.
“We’re in the midst of seven games that we’ve identified as tough,” he explains. “We’ve got two [against the Peterborough Petes], two [against the Ottawa 67’s], one against the London Knights, and one against the Guelph Storm… There’s about seven games we feel are a real playoff rehearsal.”
He notes the team is hoping to move up to the third spot in the playoffs, overtaking the rival Petes.
“No one’s [passing the first place Ottawa 67’s], and we can’t take second cause of the divisions, so the most attainable and best finish we can get is third,” he says.
Hunt notes they’ve come a long way in catching up to the Petes, adding they were up to 14 points behind them at one point. Currently both teams have 72 points, with the Petes having a game in hand.
He thinks the team is feeling good about catching up to their rival to the East.
“We’re not really singing from the rooftops as to what’s going on, but I think they understand it. We went one point ahead of them for a week, they now get a game in hand, so they get an opportunity to go one or two [points] up on us depending on how they do in their next one,” he says.
He says his team can’t worry about the Petes and must focus on themselves. He adds if they don’t win another game, they won’t end up in third.
“We have to just worry about how we’re doing and who we’re playing, and how our play is,” he says.
Hunt explains the rest of the season will see himself, head coach Greg Walters, and the rest of the coaching staff solidifying lines, and preparing the team for the playoffs.
“The 68-game season is really just a dress rehearsal for [the playoffs], that’s your Broadway show,” says Hunt. “I think we want to make sure we’ve got all of our experiments done, and we’re at the peak of our game.”
While the team’s power play is already third in the league, Hunt explains he wants the team to improve on the penalty kill, where they sit in 12th.
“If we can get that up into the top 10, it gives yourself a better chance because really the scores in the playoffs should come down… I think if we can get all our specialty teams on point, and if we can finish third, we have to consider it a successful regular season,” he says.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Gens would be taking on the Barrie Colts in the first round, but Hunt says he can’t decide on an ideal match up.
“I guess your ideal match up, because they’re all good teams, is just distance [in the standings],” he says. “That’s probably your ideal match up that you can get, and certainly one where the first round you’re home every night, you’re in your own bed and you’re taking hotels out of it as you go deeper in the playoffs.”
He thinks while realistically there’s no ideal team to play, having home advantage helps for the players to stick to a normal routine, sleep in their own bed every night, and go to school.
While the playoffs approach for the Gens, Oshawa city council recently voted to endorse the Gens’ bid to host the Memorial Cup next season, and Hunt says their support is integral.
“If any OHL or CHL team is ever going to host an event as big as [the Memorial Cup], the community’s got to be involved from the army of volunteers, to the host city, and the region – it’s a monstrous undertaking,” says Hunt. “It’s not just a hockey tournament anymore, it’s a world sporting event.”
Hunt thinks the support from the community in Oshawa, if they were to succeed in their bid for the cup, would be immense.
“It’s a rabid fanbase [here in Oshawa], I think it’s a community in need of a… feel good news story,” says Hunt. “I think the fans would certainly rally around it.”
He says bidding for the Memorial Cup is an exciting proposition, but he notes they may not even get to host the tournament, and things have to be “tempered.”
The Generals previously bid for the event in 2018, the 100th anniversary of the tournament, but it went to Regina, Sask. instead.
While the idea of hosting the Memorial Cup is exciting to Hunt, he is focused on today and the upcoming playoffs, where he hopes his team can play in the Memorial Cup.