OT thriller sees Generals retain first place in East

Sunday evening brought the end of another big weekend for the Oshawa Generals, as they returned to home ice for a contest with the Mississauga Steelheads. The Generals returned home fresh from a successful two-game road trip to northern Ontario, where they picked up three of four possible points in North Bay and Sudbury.

The Generals hit the ice on Sunday in a four-way tie for first place in the OHL’s Eastern Conference, after wins by Hamilton and North Bay brought them even with Oshawa, as well as Sudbury. The Generals could retake sole possession of first place in the conference with even a single point on Sunday evening.

After being given the night off on Friday, the Generals turned back to usual starting goaltender Jeremy Brodeur, who would be looking to bounce back from a sub-par performance in a shootout loss in North Bay. He was sharp early in Sunday’s contest, and he needed to be, as the visitors from Mississauga peppered him with 17 first-period shots.

While Brodeur was busy back in Oshawa’s net early Sunday evening, the Generals weren’t making life any easier for Steelheads goaltender Matthew Mancina. Oshawa scored the only goal of the opening period when rookie Grayden Gottschalk set up Eric Henderson for his fifth goal of the season. Gottschalk is taking the place of Serron Noel on the Generals’ top line with Henderson and captain Anthony Cirelli.

Mississauga would continue to put pressure on Brodeur in the second period, after outshooting Oshawa 17-13 in the first. Despite carrying much of the play in the Generals zone, it would be Oshawa scoring again to double their lead with under nine minutes left in the period, when Danil Antropov ripped a hard shot that beat Mancina’s glove hand.

The Steelheads would pull back within a goal before the end of the second, as a powerplay blast from Nicolas Hague with under three minutes left cut Oshawa’s lead to 2-1 heading to the third. After 40 minutes, Mississauga outshot the Generals 30-19.

The Steelheads continued to push the play through much of the third, extending their already lopsided shot advantage until they broke through with the equalizer. While Brodeur had been excellent in the Gens net through 40 minutes, he was hardly at fault when Mississauga finally broke through to tie the game with seven minutes left in the third, as Owen Tippett sped past the Oshawa defence before beating Brodeur for his league-leading 13th goal of the year.

Nothing else would be decided in the final minutes of the third period, sending the teams to overtime with the Steelheads holding a 42-28 shot advantage. The guaranteed point for Oshawa extended their point-streak against the Steelheads to 18 straight games, a truly remarkable stat.

The new three-on-three overtime format has proven for exciting end to end action, and this game would be no different, with the teams willing to trade chances back and forth looking for the winner.

Just past the halfway point of the five minute overtime period, the Generals struck for the winner when Medric Mercier ripped a shot that beat Mancina glove-side. Mercier’s third goal of the season was his second in five games since being acquired by Oshawa from Sault Ste. Marie.

The exciting overtime win for Oshawa secured first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, as the Generals 19 points sees them two ahead of Hamilton, Sudbury, and North Bay.

With wins in nine of their last twelve games, the Generals have earned some time at home to relax, and they will get that this week, as they play just two games without leaving home. Oshawa plays host to the Owen Sound Attack on Friday night at 7:35, and then battles the visiting Ottawa 67’s on Sunday evening, with puck drop scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Tickets for both games are still available at the box office.

Anthony Nicholson is Managing Editor of The Oshawa Times, and will be covering the Oshawa Generals in addition to various events around Durham. Anthony has covered the OHL since 2008 as Sports & Entertainment Editor for the N24 News Network and spent a season as the colour commentator for Generals radio broadcasts. He can be reached by email at anicholson@oshawatimes.com or on Twitter.

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