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BRAMPTON, Ont. – For two teams that have met only once, more than three months ago, the Brampton Battalion and Oshawa Generals are remarkably close, at least in a statistical sense.
Heading into their date at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Powerade Centre, the Battalion and Generals are one point apart in the Ontario Hockey League’s competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.
Oshawa has a won-lost-extended record of 21-14-3 for 45 points, fourth in the conference and second in the East Division, while the Battalion is 19-14-6 for 44 points, fifth in the conference and third in the Central Division.
“We’ve played well the last few games,” said defenceman Zach Bell of the Troops, who defeated the visiting Mississauga Steelheads 5-2 Monday and have won five of their last seven games.
“The momentum from the weekend definitely carries through. The guys know we can win when we battle through some adversity, which is huge for our confidence.”
The Battalion, with rookie goaltender Jake Smith continuing to shine in the absence of Matej Machovsky, at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, with the Czech Republic, took five of six possible points last weekend. The Troops posted a 3-2 road win over the Sarnia Sting on Friday night before losing 5-4 via shootout at Mississauga on Sunday.
“We’re going to need Smith to have another big game for us and have everyone step up,” said Bell. “We can’t have any passengers because, this time of year, we need those two points. We have to battle through.”
Both the Battalion and Generals, who have lost their last two games after a four-game winning streak, are without key elements.
“We know they’re missing a couple of guys, but so are we,” said Bell. “We’re going to have to rely on our hard work and defensive system to keep us in it.”
Three of Oshawa’s top four scorers are away at tournaments. Boone Jenner, who has 27 goals and 20 assists for 47 points in 32 games, is playing for Canada at the world juniors, while Tyler Biggs, who has 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points in 34 games, is part of the United States entry. Michael Dal Colle, with nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 35 games, is with Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge at Victoriaville and Drummondville, Que.
“Even though they’re missing Jenner and Biggs, that team still has a lot of firepower up front,” noted Bell. “We’ve got to expose their defence and get traffic to the front and get pucks on net.”
Barclay Goodrow and Jamie Lewis are missing from the Battalion’s top line after suffering shoulder and knee injuries respectively at Mississauga. Goodrow has a team-leading 23 goals and 10 assists for 33 points, tied with Blake Clarke for the team lead. Lewis has 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points in 38 games.
“Being able to get a win without those two was huge for the confidence, especially the young guys,” said Bell. “Being able to ride that into the game on Thursday is big for our team.”
Clarke, who scored two goals Monday, has 12 goals and 21 assists in 38 games, second in scoring among OHL rookies behind Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters.
“We need to get on them from the start and keep going to the hard areas to score goals,” Bell said of the meeting with the Generals, the first since a 7-4 win by the home side at Oshawa on Sept. 30. “If we get the greasy goals, we’ll be able to come away with two greasy points to show for it.”