Generals going to be tough Allan Cup hosts
The Bentley Generals are clearly intent on being the hosts with the most in the 2013 Allan Cup.
The Generals have recruited a fistful of talented and experienced players for the 2012-13 senior AAA hockey season, which for Bentley will culminate in playing host to the Allan Cup tournament to be played April 15-20 at the Red Deer Arena.
Among the new faces are power forwards Matt Stefanishion, Chris Neiszner and Dustin Moore, as well as goaltender Trevor Koenig.
Stefanishion is a Daysland native who played two years with Melville of the SJHL and earned a scholarship to Ferris Steve University in 2004. After two years of college hockey, he moved on to the minor pro ranks and signed a two-year NHL deal with the Washington Capitals in 2006.
But he never played beyond the American League — scoring one goal in 17 games over three seasons — and toiled mostly in the ECHL before enrolling at SAIT and producing 14 goals and 32 points in 19 regular-season games with the ACAC Trojans last winter.
“He probably should have made a bunch of loot from this game, but because of injuries and whatever he did not,” said Generals manager Jeff McInnis. “He’s still a student at SAIT but decided not to play there this season. He felt that he didn’t fit into the ACAC last year, that it wasn’t his brand of hockey. And he’s 29 now, he was the old guy there.”
Stefanishion, a right winger, racked up 135 minutes in penalties with the Trojans and at six-foot-three and 225 pounds is a physical force.
“He’s big and powerful. I see him as like a senior hockey (Eric) Lindros,” said McInnis.
Neiszner is a former Red Deer Rebels player (2001-05) and assistant coach who skated in the AHL, ECHL and one season in France before ending his playing career in 2010. His best minor pro season was 2008-09, when he garnered 41 points, including 21 goals, while serving as captain of the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers.
“Chris is kind of everything you want. He’s a low maintenance guy who is gritty but has some skill and stays in good shape,” said McInnis. “He doesn’t ask for anything and doesn’t have to be told anything.”
Moore, a product of the Red Deer minor system who scored 20 goals in his only season with the Rebels (2006-07), played five years at the University of Lethbridge and was captain of the Pronghorns. The 26-year-old winger will finish his degree at the U of L in December and is no longer eligible to play with the ‘Horns.
“Dustin is a great addition to our team,” said McInnis. “He’s kind of like a (Generals veteran forward) Sean Robertson, but 10 years younger.”
Koenig, from Edmonton, stopped pucks for Fort Saskatchewan of the AJHL and then attended Union College on a four-year scholarship. From there, he was a minor pro netminder for seven seasons before playing overseas — in Denmark, France and Sweden — the past three years.
“He’s a long-time pro and a guy I’ve had on my radar for years,” said McInnis. “It’s fortunate for us that he’s back at home this year.”
Koenig will join returnee Travis Yonkman in the Generals net.
Other key newcomers include forwards Dustin Sproat, Travis Dunkle and Eric Schneider, and defenceman Shawn Germain. Meanwhile, former captain Kent Beagle has returned to the team after missing the last season and a half with knee problems.
Sproat, a Red Deer product, is an Ivy League grad who attended and played at Princeton University for four years after earning a scholarship out of Drayton Valley of the AJHL. The 30-year-old toiled in the ECHL for four seasons, scoring 24 and 21 goals with Cincinnati in 2009-10 and 2010-11, when he ended his pro career to attend the University of British Columbia to secure a masters degree in business.
Sproat is now at home in Red Deer completing his thesis online.
“This guys has brains to burn, he’s not your normal hockey player,” said McInnis. “He’s really articulate.”
Dunstall, meanwhile, is a WHL graduate who suited up for Kamloops and Medicine Hat before concluding his junior career with Grande Prairie of the AJHL. He split the next season between the Augusta RiverHawks of the Southern Professional League and Ryerson University and he was back with Augusta for the 2011-12 campaign.
Dunstall also suited up with the senior AAA Horse Lake Thunder last spring, the team that defeated the Generals in the Alberta final in April. Horse Lake did not register for the provincial AAA playoffs this year, leaving Dunstall as a free agent, and the Generals jumped at the opportunity to secure his services.
“He was kind of the guy we had our eye on when we learned Horse Lake wasn’t going triple A this season,” said McInnis. “I called their GM and he said ‘go for it’.
“He was a guy that impressed us when we played against them last year. He’s young, he can skate and he make plays at high speed. He’s moved here, he’s got a job welding and he’s living in Blackfalds. He’ll be a nice addition.”
Schneider and Germain both have extensive minor pro experience, with Drayton Valley native Schneider having played with the WHL Tri-City Americans, Power River of the BCHL and the University of Calgary for two seasons (1998 to 2000) before beginning a five-year minor pro career that included stints in the ECHL, International League and the AHL. He played in Germany the past eight years.
Germain, from St. Paul, played two seasons and change of junior A hockey with Bonnyville of the AJHL and Chilliwack of the BCHL, then played at the college level with Grant MacEwen and the university level with Waterloo for two years. The 30-year-old got into one AHL game — with the Hershey Bears in 2006-07 — but otherwise spent the remainder of his six-year minor pro career in the ECHL.
And then there’s Beagle, the former captain who’s attempting a comeback after undergoing knee surgery.
“He’s trying to roust his career again,” said McInnis. “He’s been away for a year and a half, which is a long time, but the opportunity is there for him. He’s a battle-tested warrior who can show some of the other guys what is needed to be successful in senior hockey.”
With the additions, McInnis is confident the Generals are clearly a superior team to last season’s edition.
“There’s not an area in which we haven’t improved,” he said. “Certainly there’s reason for much optimism, now it’s up to the coaches and players to make it happen. We’re happy with all the players we’ve added.”
The Generals, who also return a load of key veterans including defencemen Donald Morrison, Joe Vandermeer and Jason Lundmark, and forwards Robertson, Travis Brigley, Tyler Haarstad and Curtis Austring, defeated the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs 5-2 last weekend at Lacombe in their lone preseason game to date.
Bentley and the Sylvan Lake Admirals will hook up in another exhibition game on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Penhold Regional Multiplex.