FEATURE 2015: The year the Gens won it all – Oshawa Express

It was only four years ago that the Oshawa Generals hoisted the Canadian Hockey Leagues greatest honour.

Today, the Gens are looking to add another Memorial Cup to their history, as they are making another run at history.

Niagara IceDogs eliminated in six-game upset to Oshawa Generals

In 2015, Oshawa hoisted the most coveted trophy in junior hockey for the first time in a quarter of a century and The Oshawa Express was there to cover the momentous occasion.

Oshawa Generals eliminate IceDogs, advance to OHL conference final against Ottawa 67s

The Generals have a long history with the Memorial Cup, with their first victory dating all the way back to 1939.

OTTAWA 67S (1) vs. OSHAWA GENERALS (3) Game 1, Thurs., April 18 at Ottawa, 7:00 Game 2, Sat., April 20 at Ottawa, 2:00 Game 3, Sun., April 21 at Oshawa, 6:05 Game 4, Wed., April 24 at Oshawa, 7:05 Game 5, Fri., April 26 at Ottawa, 7:00* Game 6, Sun., April 28 at Oshawa, 6:05* Game 7, Mon., April 29 at Ottawa, 7:00* *if necessary #OTTvsOSH

During the 2014-15 season, the Gens were considered to be a strong team, but they were an afterthought with teams like the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds, Erie Otters, and the historically strong London Knights being front and centre in the OHL.

The Ontario Hockey League today announced the two schedule scenarios for the 2019 OHL Eastern Conference Championship Series for the Bobby Orr Trophy.

In 2017, Roger Hunt, vice president and general manager of the Generals, told The Oshawa Express, Theres not a day that goes by that I dont think about that team, that win and those players and the staff. It sounds corny, but its true.

Last though not at all least, they couldnt get much past Kyle Keyser, Monday nights first star and most valuable player of the second-round series. The Boston Bruins prospect limited the IceDogs, a team that scored an average of 4.8 goals in 68 games during the regular season, to 15 goals in six playoff games, an average of only 2.5 per game.

The Generals had one of their strongest regular seasons in the organization’s long history during the 2014-15 season.

Three points separated the IceDogs, 44-17-7-0, and the Generals, 44-20-4-0, in the final standings in the Eastern Conference, and each topped a lower seed in five games in the opening round of the playoffs. Niagara defeated the seventh-seeded North Bay Battalion, while the Generals dispatched sixth-seeded Peterborough to the sidelines.

In all, the team amassed 108 points, with a record of 51-11-2-4, making them the second best in the OHL.

The team was first in the Eastern Conference, and an East Division where all five teams made the playoffs.

Oshawa started the season strong with a 5-2 victory over the Barrie Colts in which five different players scored.

Back-and-forth 5-on-5 play was interrupted late in the first period when Niagara was assessed back-to-back minor penalties. Oshawa capitalized on the second power-play opportunity as Grimsby native Brandon Saigeon tapped in his rebound to open the scoring with 1:06 remaining in a back-and-forth first period.

Despite being limited to only 56 games that season, Michael Dal Colle, now a member of the New York Islanders after being selected fifth overall in the 2014 draft, scored 42 goals with 51 assists for 93 points, far and away the best on the team.

Less than five minutes later, the IceDogs were on the verge of taking a man advantage for the first time in the game when they were assessed their third penalty of the game. The Generals regained their lead less than two minutes later on yet another power-play goal, this one from Giovanni Villati.

Lindberg is now a member of the Las Vegas Golden Knights after being drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

Dog Biscuits: The IceDogs entered with playoffs with nine NHL draft picks, including six they acquired since the start of the 2018-19 season. The Generals had eight. … Game 6 marked the end to OHL careers of Niagara overagers Matt Brassard, D; Stephen Dhillon, G; and Johnathon Schafer, D.

Matt Mistele, who was acquired from the Plymouth Whalers, now the Flint Firebirds, also had a strong season.

After being traded, Mistele played in 25 games for Oshawa, where he had 13 goals and nine assists for 22 points. Overall, Mistele had 37 goals, 27 assists and 64 points for the season.

Winner of that series advances to play either the Saginaw Spirit or the victor of the Western Conference semifinal between the Guelph Storm and the London Knights for the right to represent the OHL at the Memorial Cup tournament in Halifax.

Dakota Mermis, the Gens’ strongest defenseman that year, is now with the Phoenix Coyotes organization.

The IceDogs, playing their first must-win game of the post-season, were unable to stay out of the penalty box, surrendering two power-play goals in five opportunities while going 0-1 with a man advantage.

That season, Mermis scored six goals from the blueline to go with 24 assists for 30 points. He was acquired from the London Knights in an attempt to bolster the Oshawa defensive core.

A 3-2 setback on the road Monday night, second-seeded Niagaras fourth loss in a row, gave the No. 3 seed Oshawa Generals the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal four games to two.

Mermis had 10 more points that season than the next highest scoring defenseman, Sonny Hertzberg, who had 20 points in 32 games.

Niagara was meeting Oshawa in post-season play for the second year in a row and for the seventh time since the franchise relocated to St. Catharines from Mississauga 12 years ago.

Appleby, the starter, played in 50 games that season, amassing a record of 38-7-0-4 with a goals against average of 2.04 and a save percentage of .924.

A high-scoring Niagara IceDogs team favoured by many to win an Ontario Hockey League championship for the first time in franchise history fell 10 victories short of that goal.

Brodeur, Applebys backup, and the son of legendary NHL goalie Martin Brodeur, put together a strong season, going 13-4-2-0 with a 2.47 GAA and a save percentage of .900. He would eventually go on to become the starter for Oshawa.

The captain during this era was defenseman Josh Brown, who played in 60 games, scoring four goals, and 17 assists for 21 points.

Last season, the IceDogs eliminated the Generals in five games in the quarterfinals to even their all-time playoff record versus Oshawa at three series wins each.

Brown was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the sixth round, 152nd overall of the 2013 NHL player draft, and played 38 games for the Panthers this season.

“It was tight down to the wire there, obviously 3-2 for about 10 minutes there, so it’s nerve-racking, it really is, but we stuck with it and we got the win and it felt great after,” said MacLean, who has 12 points and is +11 through 11 playoff games. “We’ve been through adversity and things we couldn’t control, so we just worried about playing our game. (Keyser), I can’t say enough about how good he is and how much he means to the team.”

With a roster filled to the brim with NHL drafted players, and some of the strongest goaltending around, the Gens were set for a lengthy playoff run.

“They’re extremely well coached, they have four lines of gas that are going to come at us, they’ve got some big physical D, and they’ve got a great goaltender,” Walters pointed out. “So we know it’s not going to be easy, but I do know that our kids will come and compete for everything … We’re playing for a trophy now.”

For Hunt, this group of kids was special, as he previously told The Express, That team grew up together. I dont think we had the best players…I think we had the best team.

“We changed our structure a little bit, but it’s all the kids,” Generals coach Greg Walters said in explaining the series turnaround. “You saw them putting their bodies and everything on the line to block shots and they really competed, that’s the biggest thing. I’m so proud of those kids right now.”

After breaking a franchise record with 51 wins and 108 points, the Gens began the OHL playoffs and their quest for the organizations 13th J. Ross Robertson Cup.

Keyser, the team’s best player throughout the playoffs, appeared to injure his left leg in a collision midway through the game, but after several minutes of attention on the ice, was able to continue and lead the team to a Game 6 win before 4,235 fans at the Tribute Communities Centre.

The Gens swooped in and made quick work of the Petes, much like they did in the first round of this years OHL playoffs, winning the series 4-1.

Ivan Lodnia tied the game quickly into the second period, but another power-play goal put the Generals ahead — to stay as it turned out. Defenceman Giovanni Vallati ripped a low shot from the right point on a feed from captain Kyle MacLean 7:01 into the period.

Thus far, the 2019 OHL playoffs have mirrored the 2015 playoffs, as the Gens took on the Niagara IceDogs in the second round, just like their most recent series.

After finishing off Niagara, the Gens went on to handily beat the North Bay Battalion in a six games, making it to the OHL final, where they would play the Western Conference champion.

After Keyser’s injury scare, Nando Eggenberger gave the Generals some much needed breathing room with 1:05 remaining in the second period. MacLean made a brilliant pass for his second assist of the game, finding Eggenberger alone in the middle of the ice.

Up until the final round before they competed with the Gens for the J. Ross Robertson Cup, the Erie Otters handled every team in the West as though they were nothing, even beating out the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the only team with more points than the Generals during the regular season.

The Generals will now need Keyser to be healthy and the rest of the team at its best against the 67’s, who led the league with a 50-12-4-2 record and have swept both the Hamilton Bulldogs and Sudbury Wolves so far in the playoffs.

Oshawa began the finals against the Otters at home, winning both games by scores of 4-1 and 5-1 respectively, as the Gens handled the opposing offense with ease.

OSHAWA — The Oshawa Generals survived an injury scare to goalie Kyle Keyser to eliminate the Niagara IceDogs with a 3-2 win Monday, April 15, booking a date with the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL Eastern Conference final.

However, as the series moved to the Erie Insurance Arena, things became a little tougher for Oshawa, as the first two road games began with the Otters sneaking by the Gens with a 4-3 loss.

Although the IceDogs were the team faced with elimination, the Generals came out of the gate stronger, getting the first three shots on goal, including a couple of good scoring chances on Stephen Dhillon.

Both games in Erie were close, as the Gens wanted to recover from the loss with a victory before returning home.

Lodnia scored his second of the game and fourth of the playoffs 4:33 into the third period, but the Generals were able to hold the lead thanks in large part again to Keyser.

The Generals had to force their way through future first overall pick and NHL superstar Connor McDavid before going onto the Memorial Cup and were successful as the defensive pairing of Brown and Mermis were able to shut him down long enough for the Gens to win in overtime.

But, most of the first period was exciting back and forth hockey, with Brandon Saigeon striking first for the home side, a power-play goal with 1:06 remaining.

Game 5 took the teams both back to Oshawa, where Brown and Mermis continued their defensive dominance and shut down McDavid once again.

The team won Game 5 with 6-2 at the General Motors Centre (now the Tribute Communities Centre), solidifying what would be their first trip to the Memorial Cup since the 1996-97 season.

DJ Smith, upon winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup, told The Express, We were overlooked because a lot of teams scored more goals than us and its tough to keep selling. It takes a lot of people to buy in to play defense like that and a lot of unsung heroes.

Its an unbelievable feeling, he said. In my overage year like that, going out like this in front of this crowd, in front of these fans, I cant even describe it right now. Its an unbelievable feeling.

The Generals still had a fight ahead of them if they hoped to win the most coveted trophy in junior hockey.

We came to win the Memorial Cup. This is great, and well celebrate this, but tomorrow morning when I get up, weve got a harder trophy to win, said Smith upon winning the OHL playoffs.

The Memorial Cup tournament was hosted by the Quebec Ramparts. The Generals and the Ramparts were joined by the Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Rimouski Oceanic.

Things began with a round robin tournament, and the Gens first game was on May 23 against the Ocenanic, who had previously won the Memorial Cup in 2000.

The Generals struck first as both Lindberg and Dal Colle scored in the first period. However, the Oceanic responded with two goals of their own.

Heading into the second tied, Stephen Desrocher scored the lone goal of the period for Oshawa, taking back the lead at the end of the period.

Quebec was quick to tie the game up though in the third period, but Oshawa responded when Hunter Smith scored the game winner midway through the period, making it a final score of 4-3 for the Gens

After beating Rimouski, the Gens would go on to face the host Ramparts, winning it 5-4 in overtime, and then the Rockets, winning 2-1.

After winning all three round robin games, the Gens bought their ticket to the finals, where they once again took on the Kelowna Rockets.

It was a tight game, as the Rockets opened the scoring with a goal from Tomas Soustal in the first period, putting the Gens behind early.

Oshawa responded in the second with a goal from Anthony Cirelli, which after a scoreless third period, forced overtime.

Only a minute and half into OT, Cirelli scored once again, earning himself first star of the game honours and handing Oshawa its first Memorial Cup victory in 25 years.

Following the victory, the City of Oshawa honoured the Generals victory with a parade on June 2, 2015.

Then-Mayor John Henry said, This has been an amazing year for the Generals. The city has really come alive.

After seeing more than 4,000 fans at nearly every home game, in his Generals jersey, former city councillor Doug Sanders said to council, I just think that its amazing. It would be a great opportunity to come out and support [our] homegrown hockey team.

After the tournament, Appleby, who led the tournament in both GAA at 2.08, and save percentage at .915, took home the Happ Emms Memorial Trophy, which went to the top goalie.

Today, the Generals are in the midst of a new playoff run which would see them win another Memorial Cup. They have now moved on from their series against the Niagara IceDogs to take on the Ottawa 67s in the conference final.