Every inch of the ice will be fought over when the Oshawa Generals host the Peterborough Petes on Friday Night Hockey.
These historic rivals don’t like each other much. No matter the circumstances, the intensity of the Generals and Petes rivalry always takes over after the puck drops. Games aren’t always pretty, but consistently produce fireworks.
“They’re a physical team, we’re a physical team,” explains Generals head coach D.J. Smith. “It’s going to be a muck ‘em kind of game. I don’t think either team is a high-flying team. We both have some good players but we’re not loaded with high-flying talent. We’re going to battle for every chance we get and so will they.”
“Every time you go into a game against them, it has a bit of a playoff atmosphere,” adds Peterborough head coach Jody Hull. “You can definitely see a different, I guess, mindset of the players once the puck’s dropped.”
WHAT’S ON THE LINE?
Although a large gap remains in the standings between the two, both teams are heading in the same direction. The Generals, who were considering a rebuild early in the season, are leading the Eastern Conference standings while the Petes, who started slowly, are one of the league’s hottest teams since the trade deadline.
The Generals lead the Sudbury Wolves by seven points for first in conference standings. Given the fact winning the East could be good enough to gain entry into this year’s MasterCard Memorial Cup – should the host London Knights win the West – every point matters for the Generals down the stretch to acquire the path of least resistance once the playoffs begin.
“At the end of the day, you still have to win in the playoffs but there’s a reason they have standings,” Smith says. “We’re pushing for first in the East… you have to put points away when you can.”
The Petes are surging in the second half after paying a steep price to acquire Hunter Garlent from the Guelph Storm. The deal solidified the Petes’ top line with Nick Ritchie and Eric Cornel flanking Garlent, and the results since the deal speak for themselves.
Their first-half struggles put them behind the eight ball, but now that the team is thriving and forming an identity, a home playoff date is completely within reach.
Scott Laughton vs. Hunter Garlent
Garlent’s addition in Peterborough gave Hull much more flexibility with his lineup. The Petes got everything they were looking for and more from Garlent, whose addition now enables the team not to have to match up its top line against other team’s top lines.
“That just frees up Hunter and Nick (Ritchie) and Eric (Cornel) so that they can use their offensive parts of their game to their advantage,” Hull explains. “We’ve been having a little success with that of late.”
Since the Petes are the road team, they won’t have the advantage of the final change. Laughton, Canada’s captain at the world juniors, is a matchup nightmare for the opposition given that he can do a bit of everything.
“Without him here, (opposing teams) would hone in on one or two guys and we were in trouble,” says Smith. “With him here, you have to worry about every time he’s on the ice and that opens up ice for other people. Obviously, when you have an elite player like him in your lineup it certainly helps and on any given night he can just go out there and win the hockey game.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Peterborough: LW, Nick Ritchie
Ritchie, the younger brother of Dallas prospect Brett, is considered a surefire first-round pick this summer. He has shades of his brother’s game and developed instant chemistry with Garlent, a friend from youth who played on various hockey and lacrosse teams together before their time in the OHL.
“He’s starting to understand the defensive part of the game more and more every day,” Hull says. “He’s a guy I can rely on regardless of the circumstance, whether it’s to get a goal or maybe to help defend a lead late in the game. I just think his overall game has matured immensely since he was 16.”
Oshawa: C, Michael Dal Colle
Dal Colle had his coming out party last week at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Calgary. The top prospect is tearing up the leader board and working his way towards becoming a potential top-five pick this summer.
“I think his overall calmness is what makes him a special player,” Smith says. “He doesn’t panic, he doesn’t get mad, his temper doesn’t raise on the bench, he thinks the game. I think some people may want more intensity at times, but at the same point, that’s what makes him good. He doesn’t panic under pressure, no situation is too intense for him, he relaxes, he goes out there and makes plays.”