Oshawa Generals ousted from OHL playoffs in overtime

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Published May 1, 2022 at 9:23 pm

Oshawa Generals captain Ty Tullio scored a game-tying goal with 1.5 seconds left in an elimination game on Sunday night. (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

Captain Ty Tullio came to the rescue at literally the last second, but the Oshawa Generals were ultimately out of comebacks.

The Generals, trying to evade elimination for the second time in 24 hours, got the hockey equivalent of a Hail Mary on Sunday, with Tullio firing home an equalizer with 1.5 seconds left directly from a faceoff win by Ryan Gagnier. But the other captain — the Frontenacs’ Shane Wright, a top NHL draft prospect, illustrated that momentum is a vapour in playoff hockey when he zipped home a backhand 5:12 into overtime for a 5-4 Kingston win.

The goal by Wright secured a 4-2 series win for Kingston in the best-of-seven the Ontario Hockey League conference quarterfinal. Phiadelphia Flyers forward prospect and league playoff scoring leader Zayde Wisdom set up Wright for a chance about 10 feet in front of Generals goalie Patrick Leaver. The goal muted most of a crowd of 3,411 at Tribute Communities Centre and mooted the three-goal comeback that the Generals forged across the final 6½ minutes of regulation time.

Kingston appeared to have the dagger with 8:25 left, when Alec Belanger one-timed a slapshot past Generals goalie for a 4-1 Frontenacs lead.

Oakville native ignites comeback

The Generals’ comeback started with two goals in 61 seconds. Calum Ritchie, the highly touted rookie from Oakville, scored his joint team-leading fourth goal of the playoffs with 6:21 left to stir the Generals — and memories of the multi-goal comeback Oshawa had in Game 3 on April 26. Just 61 seconds later, Gagnier scored on a shot that Kingston goalie Leevi Meriläinen likely would have wanted back.

Oshawa continued to press, paying off in the tying goal that forced the series’ first overtime session. Oshawa, on top of having rallied, also went in with a 5-2 OT record in the regular season, while Kingston was 2-4.

Gagnier and defenceman Lleyton Moore each one goal and an assist for the Generals. Kingston’s Lucas Edmonds, a 113-point scorer in the regular season, had two assists. Kingston’s Braden Haché, a Florida Panthers defence prospect, had his first OHL two-point game in 90 career contests.

Boston Bruins draft choice Brett Harrison, Ritchie and Tullio shared the Generals’ scoring lead with seven points apiece in the series. All three contributed a pair of points when Oshawa won 3-1 at Kingston on Saturday to bring the series back to their home ice.

But Oshawa struggled to score in the even-strength phase. Eight of their 18 goals came on the power play, where they converted at a 40 per cent rate.

Kingston had a 20-10 goal differential at even strength. Wisdom led the way with 12 points in the series, and Pickering native Paul Ludwinski added nine, including seven assists.

The Frontenacs will face the North Bay Battalion in the Eastern Conference semifinals stage. The top-seeded Hamilton Bulldogs will face either the Barrie Colts or Mississauga Steelheads. Mississauga leads that series 3-2 ahead of Game 6 in Barrie on Monday.

The second round is scheduled to begin late this week, likely on Thursday.

Tumultuous season

The loss put a lid on an up-and-down season for the Generals that included a COVID-19 pause and a coaching change.

The OHL, which cancelled the balance of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not play last season, returned this season with safety measures and conference games-only schedules for some teams. The league had capacity caps early in the season, and also paused briefly in midseason for health reasons, before returning to play without fans.

On March 12, one night after a defeat in Kingston, the Generals removed Todd Miller as their head coach. Kurtis Foster and Mike Hedden took over as co-coaches, buying the Generals time to regroup in order to be a tough out in the playoffs.

The defeat marked the end of the OHL line for the Generals’ 20-year-old overages, right wing Ryan Stepien of Stoney Creek, defenceman Mathew Hill of Oakville and backup goalie Zachary Paputsakis.

Tullio, an Edmonton Oilers draft choice, and right wing Oskar Olausson, a Colorado Avalanche first-round choice, are now eligible to play for their NHL organizations’ American Hockey League farm teams.

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