By Mike Pearson, News staff, with files from Larry Robertson, special to The News
Call it the battle of Hamilton.
Friday night in Dundas, the Stoney Creek Generals will take on the Real McCoys in a playoff matchup that seemed unimaginable a few months ago.
With 14 wins in 24 games this season, the expansion Senior AAA Generals have surpassed just about everyone’s expectations, including the team’s president, Tony Falasca.
Stoney Creek enters the Allan Cup Hockey playoffs having won seven of its last eight games and five straight on home ice. The Generals beat Norwood 11-8 on Sunday and took a few days to regroup while preparing for tomorrow’s matchup. The Generals erased a 7-5 second period deficit with six third period markers.
Despite winning just once against the McCoys this season, Generals president Tony Falasca is optimistic about his team’s chances.
“To start the rivalry up with them, I think it’s going to be outstanding,” he said.
In their last two meetings, Stoney Creek lost 5-4 in overtime but rebounded with a solid 5-1 win in Stoney Creek on Feb. 9. Friday night's game starts at 7:30 p.m. at J.L. Grightmire Arena. The teams meet again for game two on Sunday March 2 at Gateway Ice Centre. It will be the Generals' first home night game, starting at 8 p.m.
The Real McCoys certainly won't be taking the Generals lightly, according to general manager Don Robertson.
“Winding up in first place is nice, but the real test starts Friday night against Stoney Creek Generals, who have won seven of their last eight games,” he said.
The McCoys enter the series riding a four-game winning streak following back-to-back wins over the Whitby Dunlops in a re-scheduled game, and the following night by the same score against the Brantford Blast.
“Stoney Creek whacked us 5–1 in their rink a couple weeks ago. They are a very good hockey club and we better be prepared for them or the series won’t end well for us,” said Robertson.
“This is when Allan Cup fever starts heating up as we prepare for whom else gets in the tournament, and how we have prepared ourselves for the competition,” he added.
Regardless of who wins the upcoming seven game series, only one team is playing for a berth in the Allan Cup championship tournament, April 14-19. The Generals will not only have to beat Dundas, but also the winner of the Whitby versus Brantford series, to qualify.
The McCoys, on the other hand, will play in the tournament regardless of whether they beat the Generals. As the host team, Dundas is already guaranteed a spot.
Despite this reality, Falasca isn’t expecting his opponent to ease up in what ultimately amounts to a redundant playoff series for Dundas. He points out the McCoys beat Brantford and Whitby in their last two games to clinch first place. A quick glance at the Dundas roster also reveals no fewer than half a dozen former NHLers, including Matthew Barnaby, Jay McKee and Jason Ward.
“You look at their squad and they’ve got ex-pro players. They’re going to play. And you can see the way they finished over the season,” said Falasca.
Stoney Creek’s strong special teams play makes the team a legitimate playoff threat. The Generals have been assessed a league-low 327 penalty minutes. They have one of the better power play units and four scorers who are averaging better than a point per game.
After a rough start defensively, the Generals have lowered their goals against thanks to improved play from its blueliners and goaltender Daniel Svedin, a mid-season addition.
“Our goaltending is outstanding, our defence is outstanding and we’ve got some forwards who are putting the puck in the net for us,” Falasca noted.
Svedin should be well-rested after sitting out the final game of the regular season.
Scoring will be important against the McCoys, who feature eight players averaging more than a point per game. Forward Scott Mifsud leads the way with 20 goals and 29 assists in only 22 appearances.
Kyle McQuade and Kyle Zettler share Stoney Creek’s team scoring lead with 34 points apiece.
Dundas lost only four times in regulation during the regular season, with only one defeat on home ice. Despite its wealth of scoring, defence is perhaps the team’s biggest strength. Dundas allowed just 78 goals for an average of 3.25 per game, a league low.