The Oshawa Generals got off to the start they wanted in their Eastern Conference final against the Ottawa 67’s.
Unfortunately for them, it all came apart in the third period.
The Generals blew a two-goal lead as the 67’s scored four unanswered goals in the final frame to roar back for a 6-4 win in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series, Apr. 18, at TD Place in Ottawa.
Trailing 4-2, Mitchell Hoelscher, Sasha Chmelevski and Noel Hoefenmayer, on the power play, scored less than seven minutes apart midway through the third and Kody Clark buried an empty-netter with 40 seconds remaining to complete Ottawa’s comeback.
The Generals have only themselves to blame for the third-period collapse, says head coach Greg Walters.
“Guys don’t pay attention to detail at this time of the game and against a team like Ottawa it’s going to be in the back of our net,” Walters explained.
The Generals were coming off an emotional comeback themselves, eliminating the Niagara IceDogs with four straight wins after dropping the opening two games of the conference semifinal.
While Ottawa may have had a few extra days or rest coming into the opener tonight, Walters made no excuses.
“Not at all,” the Generals head coach said when asked if his club ran out of gas. “Our brains stop working and. . . we lost coverage. And you take an undisciplined penalty like that and it’s going to cost you, so our guys were ready to go. We did show we can play with them.
“Obviously, they’re an extremely good team and we put a game plan in place that, for the most part, we achieved and when the time mattered we had guys that just went off page.”
Oshawa scored three straight in the second, including a pair by overager Brandon Saigeon, to grab a 4-2 lead and put themselves in control heading into the third.
Saigeon admits he and his teammates will take a bit of time to let this sink in and then prepare themselves for Game 2 back in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon (Apr. 20).
“I think we’ll take a little bit of time to reflect on this game,” Saigeon said. “It’s a disappointing finish, but it is Game 1 and we have some time here to reflect and see what we can do better heading into Game 2, and what changes we need to make.”
Marco Rossi scored twice in less than three minutes late in the first to put Ottawa ahead, 2-1. The Austrian import also added a pair of assists for a four-point night.
The favourites heading into the playoffs, Ottawa finished first overall in the OHL this season with an impressive 50-12-4-2 record
“We showed a lot of character,” 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny said of his club’s ability to claw back. “We came back, but what I’m really proud of was the attitude of the boys on the bench. They stayed composed, they stayed in the moment and they never panicked.
“For sure we had intensity, but we stayed under control all the time.”
Brett Neumann and Danil Antropov also scored for the Generals, who were outshot, 37-20, including 13-6 in the third.
“We know most of the goals were off our own mental mistakes,” Walters said. “We have to find a way to generate more scoring chances and possession time in the offensive zone and get the (defence) to branch out a little bit more. Also we have to be able to shutdown their cycle, but we showed at times that we could definitely play with them.
“They’re a great team, they’re very well coached, and I know the character inside our room and we’ll come back strong.”
Puck drop for Game 2 at TD Place is 2 p.m.
photo: Allan McShane had three assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Oshawa Generals dropped their Eastern Conference final series opener, 6-4, to the host Ottawa 67’s, at TD Place. Terry Wilson/OHL Images