Generals phenom shaking off rust

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

There was a palpable sense of occasion at the antiquated hockey barn known as St. Mike's Arena.

With the Majors off to Mississauga next season, last night's home opener will be the last to be played at the corner of St. Clair and Bathurst.

For the record, the Majors held off the Oshawa Generals 4-3.

The evening also served as the 2006 debut of John Tavares, whose presence on the ice and poise with the puck belie his young age.

Tavares missed Oshawa's pre-season games after injuring his left knee at the under-18 national camp.

The kid, as one might expect, looked a little rusty in the game's early minutes against a Majors team bent on taking away Tavares' time and space. As the game unfolded, though, Tavares gradually found his rhythm and his first goal of the newly minted season.

On his first shift, Tavares hesitated at the Majors' blueline, a moment of indecision that led to an offside.

"We're a young team and they'll be plenty of games," Tavares said following a performance that earned him one of the game's three stars. "That first shift was a little rough.

"We went 6-0 in the pre-season and this little adversity will help us in the long run."

Tavares' injury, in retrospect, was a blessing in disguise, forcing the teenager to rest his body and mind.

The season's first scoring opportunity arrived midway through the opening 20 minutes when Tavares, inexplicably, was left alone at the top of goalie Wayne Savage's crease.

A 45-goal scorer last season -- a feat that helped the Oakville native earn both OHL and CHL rookie honours -- Tavares' backhand sailed high.

He would redeem himself in the second period and at the same time resuscitate a Generals team that surrendered a goal 43 seconds into the game.

With Oshawa trailing 3-0 and on the power play, Tavares beat his man in the corner, skated to the front of the net and sent a shot along the ice that eluded Savage.

Tavares turned 16 Wednesday and has turned heads in the hockey world the moment Oshawa used an "exceptional player" status to draft the left-handed shooting star as a 14-year-old.

The Generals have failed to qualify for the post-season in the past two seasons and are looking at Tavares, among others, to turn around their fortunes.

Michael Haley had a goal and three points for St. Mike's with Dustin Ekelman, Justin Donati, and Byron Elliott also scoring.

Tyler Taylor and Brett MacLean had the other Oshawa goals.


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