OHL Generals will face Rockets in final, won first contest 2-1

in playoffs

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Tuesday May 26, 2015

The Oshawa Generals advanced to the MasterCard Memorial Cup final on Tuesday, after holding off a late Kelowna Rockets onslaught for a 2-1 victory.

Sunday they’ll face the WHL champs who advanced to the final after dominating Quebec Remparts 9-3 in the semi Friday night.

In Tuesday’s game, the Generals had help from a pair of third period goalposts and a late five-on-three penalty kill that included some big saves from Ken Appleby and a big shot block from captain Josh Brown.

The win sees the Generals improve their record to a perfect 3-0, outscoring opponents 11-8.

In the end, Oshawa would limit Kelowna’s lethal offence to just 21 shots, with 11 of those coming in the third period. The Generals were disciplined as well, holding Kelowna’s WHL-leading powerplay to just three opportunities.

“That’s a good hockey team we just beat,” said assistant captain Cole Cassels after the win. “We can thank Kenny (Appleby) for saving us in the final minutes there on a five-on-three as well as the guys on the ice. That’s a character win.”

“We had to shutdown their top line, and I think we did a pretty good job of that,” noted winger Michael Dal Colle. “I can’t lie, I was pretty nervous on the bench for the last three minutes. Appleby has proven to be one of the best goaltenders in the CHL this year and I think he did that again.”

The first period saw both clubs feel each other out in a chess match of sorts. Neither side wanted to make a mistake as both goaltenders were relatively untested in a period of forechecking and regular physicality.

Cole Cassels and company went on the offensive in the second, hitting the scoresheet in the opening five minutes.

After Whistle made a fine save off Michael Dal Colle from close quarters, the Generals would make good on their second attempt moments later as Dakota Mermis found a wide open Cassels cocked and loaded for a one-timer at 4:15.

Ken Appleby did his part a few shifts later when the Rockets got on the game’s first powerplay. The 6’4″ goaltender used his big wingspan to get a blocker on San Jose Sharks prospect Rourke Chartier’s hard slapshot from a scoring area and keep the Generals ahead.

The WHL Champion Rockets, who scored seven goals in a win over Rimouski on Monday, looked to be making some ground with just under three minutes to go in the period. Having hemmed the Generals inside their own zone for a lengthy stint, Oshawa would win a puck battle inside their own blueline, springing Tobias Lindberg on a two-on-one with Sam Harding. The Swedish shooter would opt to hold on to the puck, outwaiting a sprawling Rockets defender before sending a toe-drag snapshot through the legs of Whistle at 2:44.

The Rockets weren’t about to end the second period on a sour note though.

Tyson Baillie made a heads up play, finding Gage Quinney busting through the Oshawa defence, finding him with a saucer pass as Quinney did the rest, banging in his MasterCard Memorial Cup leading fourth goal at 18:11 to bring Kelowna within one.

Oshawa went to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead, outshooting Kelowna 21-10 through 40 minutes.

The Kelowna scoring chances started coming early in the third as Chartier could beat Appleby, but not the iron from the top of the circle as Oshawa remained in the lead.

The Rockets came close shifts later when Dillon Dube was left alone on the doorstep off an offensive zone faceoff victory, only to be thwarted by the big frame of Appleby in position to make the save.

Appleby was called upon again beyond the midway point of the third as Edmonton Oilers first round pick Leon Draisaitl got himself into a scoring position with the Oshawa goaltender out of position. Somehow, Appleby scrambled back to make the save, getting his stick on Draisaitl’s attempt.

The Rockets kept pressing.

Nick Merkley, who had picked up three goals in Kelowna’s first two games, nearly potted his fourth but the goalpost yet again saved the Generals as Appleby made the initial save before the puck fluttered off his pad and glanced off the iron.

After an Oshawa kneeing penalty at 15:36 followed up by a delay of game penalty a minute later, the Rockets had their golden opportunity to draw even.

A great display of penalty killing, paired with a nice save or two by Appleby in the Oshawa goal would be enough to see the OHL Champion Generals hold on for the win, improving their record to a perfect 3-0 as they’re off to the MasterCard Memorial Cup final on Sunday.

“It’s outstanding, it’s been 25 years I think,” said Cassels of Oshawa’s last MasterCard Memorial Cup victory. “It’ll be awesome to bring it back to Oshawa and that’s our plan on Sunday.”

Kelowna wrapped up the round robin with a 1-2 record and with the 2-1 loss, puts themselves in a good position to play in a tie-breaker game on Thursday.

Their fate will rest in the outcome of a President Cup Final rematch between the host Québec Remparts (1-1) and QMJHL Champion Rimouski Océanic (0-2) on Wednesday.