After splitting a pair of games in western Ontario to start the weekend, the Oshawa Generals returned home to the friendly confines of the Tribute Communities Centre on Sunday evening, playing host to a North Bay Battalion squad embroiled in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference.
It was a special night for those in attendance on Sunday, dubbed as ‘Superhero Night’ to raise funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation, and 8-year-old Emma Kenyon. Emma was diagnosed with cancer at age 6, and has battled through numerous rounds of chemotherapy before being declared cancer free. Emma’s wish is to go to Disneyworld, a wish that will be coming true later this year, thanks in part to the Oshawa Generals and Superhero Night. Fans came to the game dressed as their favorite superhero, and Emma was able to participate in the game’s opening faceoff, along with one of her favourite superheroes, Batman. The Gens wore special uniforms for the game, which are being auctioned off by the team to raise more money for the Children’s Wish Foundation.
The Battalion entered action on Sunday night carrying a number of rookies up from Junior A, with a number of key players out of the lineup due to injury and/or suspension. Cam Dineen, a top defenceman for North Bay drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, has been out of the lineup since a game in Oshawa in early December, when a hit from Robbie Burt of the Generals knocked him out of the lineup, resulting in an 8-game suspension for Burt. North Bay was also without one of their top scorers, as Zach Poirier found himself suspended for a boarding incident Saturday versus Niagara.
The Generals were not at 100% themselves, as captain Joe Manchurek remains on the sideline nursing a knee injury sustained last weekend in Peterborough. His status remains week-to-week.
After killing an early penalty, the Gens would open the scoring five minutes into the game, working on a powerplay of their own. A shot by Dom Commisso would hit a leg in front of the North Bay goal, the puck bouncing down onto the stick of Jack Studnicka who fired into a wide open cage to get the scoring started.
With so many regulars out of the lineup, the Battalion would rely heavily on some rookies on this night, and the tying goal would come four minutes later, from a youngster playing in his first OHL game. Alex Robert was the recipient of a nice pass from Rhys Forhan, and Robert snapped a quick shot off that snuck over the glove of Oshawa’s Jeremy Brodeur. The Generals retook the lead before the end of the first period on a goal by Kenny Huether, and took a 2-1 lead to the intermission.
The opening minutes of the second set the tempo for what would become a high scoring frame, as Oshawa struck for a pair of goals in the first 95 seconds of the period. Renars Krastenbergs extended the Gens lead by deftly swatting a rebound off the post out of mid-air to make it a 3-1 game, and less than a minute later, Commisso would be the beneficiary of a turnover by Adam Thilander in front of the North Bay goal, putting Oshawa ahead by three.
The Battalion would cut into that lead three minutes later via another rookie who would score his first OHL goal. This time it was Andy Baker, playing in his sixth game for North Bay, who would capitalize on the powerplay to bring his team back within a pair.
Some bad luck for North Bay netminder Brent Moran would lead to Oshawa’s fifth goal midway through the period, as a point-shot by Riley Stillman would hit the post, only to bounce off of Moran’s back and into the net, restoring the Generals three-goal lead. The goal led to the end of the night for Moran, who was replaced in the Battalion goal by rookie Mat Woroniuk.
The goalie-change paid immediate dividends for North Bay, who responded with a goal of their own just 25 seconds later off of the stick of Justin Brazeau. On the powerplay, Brazeau would add another late in the period to cut Oshawa’s lead to 5-4 before the end of the period, with each team striking three times in the middle stanza.
As the Battalion threatened to tie the game in period three, a pair of quick goals by the Generals five minutes into the period put a halt to any comeback attempts on this night. Mason Kohn would add to his two assists by scoring a big insurance goal, taking a nice cross-ice feed from Medric Mercier at the side of the Battalion goal to make it 6-4. A minute later, the Gens got a goal from one of their own rookies, as Grayden Gottschalk surprised Woroniuk with a bad angle shot that knuckled over the netminder into the top corner of the net.
With their three-goal lead restored yet again, the Generals would lock down play in their own zone to run out the clock, handing North Bay a 7-4 defeat. The win moves Oshawa back into a tie with Peterborough for first place in the Eastern Conference, each with 32 wins and 69 points through 53 games.
The Generals are now off until Friday night, when they begin a three-game weekend by hosting the Ottawa 67s. Oshawa plays in Owen Sound on Saturday before returning home for a Family Day Monday matinee contest against former captain Anthony Cirelli and the Erie Otters.
VIDEO: February 12, 2017: North Bay 4 @ Generals 7. (Credit: ontariohockeyleague.com)
FEATURED PHOTO: 8-year-old Emma Kenyon poses for a team photo with The Oshawa Generals and ‘The Brampton Batman’ on February 12, 2017. (Photo: Goodall Media Inc./oshawagenerals.com)
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 former colour commentator for Generals radio broadcasts. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.