Three-oh series lead gone as Oshawa, North Bay play game seven with OHL final spot on line


Published May 6, 2024 at 12:02 am

Oshawa Generals North Bay Battalion
Photo Ian Goodall/Goodall Media

The Oshawa Generals were 1:09 from sweeping the Ontario Hockey Eastern Conference final before a sharp angle shot from North Bay’s Paul Christoupolis last Monday night changed everything.

Sandus Vilmanis scored in overtime that night to give the Battalion a lifeline and North Bay followed that up with a twice-as-heartbreaking (for Oshawa fans) double overtime win in game five in Oshawa Friday night to get right back in the series.

It’s just 3-2, right? But the Battalion weren’t done yet.

The home side made it clear Sunday afternoon in their third straight elimination game that the series was going seven, scoring four first period goals and taking a 6-0 second period lead en route to an 8-1 thrashing of the Generals to send the series back to Oshawa Monday night, exactly one week after Oshawa came so close to ending the series in four games.

Dylan Wakely opened the scoring 43 seconds in and Vilmanis – the game four overtime hero – scored twice and added two assists to pace the Battalion to jump ahead of Generals stars Calum Ritchie and Beckett Sennecke for the playoff scoring lead.

Draft eligible Ben Danford, the leagues Best Defensive Defenceman (according to the OHL Coach’s Poll), got Oshawa on the board with his third of the playoffs in the final minute of the third with the game already 6-0.

Noah Bender saw his first action in the crease since last year’s Schmaltz Cup (Junior ‘C’) championship game when he relieved Jacob Oster after the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year gave up the fifth goal midway through the second period.

Oshawa now faces their own do-or-die game as the players find themselves on even terms with the Battalion, with strength of mind now required to not think too hard on the prospect of an historic failed opportunity.

That will be up to Head Coach Derek Laxdall – the league’s Coach of the Year – to figure out, with the early start Sunday giving the team a chance to get home from North Bay in time for the players to get some sleep.

Game seven (hockey fans in the GTA are getting used to that) is 7:05 Monday evening at the Tribute Centre in Oshawa.

The Western Conference won’t be seeing a game seven, with the London Knights beating Saginaw 4-2 to win the series in six. The Spirit – who will host the Memorial Cup this year and have already secured a berth – were working on their own comeback after going down 3-1 but ultimately fell short.

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan – the OHL MVP this year – opened the scoring short-handed and finished it into an empty net for London.

The winner of the London vs either Oshawa or North Bay will join Saginaw and the champs from the Western and Quebec leagues in the Memorial Cup, which gets underway May 24.

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