LACOMBE — Mark Bomersback admitted that he might have been cheating when he broke in alone and scored a huge goal Sunday evening.
“I just saw they (Bentley Generals) were going back the other way,” said Bomersback, who took a stretch pass from Jason Nopper at the Bentley blueline, skated in uncontested and scored the overtime winner to give the Innisfail Eagles a 3-2 victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven provincial senior AAA/Chinook Hockey League semifinal.
“I got a late change so it was kind of a risky play. Normally a guy would be backchecking, but it was a simple three-on-three, four-on-four kind of rush (by the Generals) so I stayed back. They turned it over and Nopper made a nice pass. I went in and got lucky.”
Game 6 goes Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Innisfail. A seventh game, if needed, will be played Sunday at Lacombe, with a 7:15 p.m. puck drop.
The Eagles snapped a 1-1 tie when Chad Robinson connected 3:04 into the third period, but Ian Schultz notched his second goal of the game — tipping Colton Hayes’ point shot past Eagles netminder Dan Dunn — on a Bentley power-play just over nine minutes later, setting up the extra frame.
“It just shows the character we have in the room,” said Eagles captain and defenceman Joe Vandermeer. “We just never quit. We had a couple of leads and a couple of breakdowns and they score on the power play to tie it up.
“But we were able to stick with it.”
Bomersback opened the scoring before a capacity crowd of 1,250 with a man-advantage tally at 14:53 of the first period and the goal held up until Shultz countered in the final minute of the second frame.
Each team had 29 shots on goal. Dustin Butler guarded the Bentley net and Dunn was particularly stellar for the Eagles.
“Sometimes you play a good hockey game and you lose,” said Generals head coach Ryan Tobler.
“We did well to come back to get the power play and tie it. We had our chances, the difference was a key save here or there and that’s usually the difference.
“I’m happy with our effort, of course not with the result. But we’ll learn from it and come ready for practice Wednesday. We’re up against it. We’re going to find out what we’re made of, plain and simple.”
The Eagles finished fourth in the four-team Chinook League this season, a whopping 17 points back of the first-place Eagles. But Vandermeer insisted his squad entered the series in a confident frame of mind.
“All year we were more or less two lines shorts, but at the same time all six games (versus Bentley), except one, were pretty much one-goal games,” he said.
Vandermeer added that the Eagles have focused on keeping their composure.
“In playoffs you have to take that extra jab or punch and stay out of the penalty box,” he stated.
“Now we just have to be ready from the start again next Saturday, get through that first 10 minutes and just play our game.”
Added Bomersback: “It’s definitely huge, you always want to be ahead in the series, never behind. So right now it’s up to us to finish it off. We don’t want this going seven (games) so we have to end it (Saturday) and go from there.”
The Generals, the top senior team in the province for the vast majority of the past decade, find themselves in unfamiliar territory, facing elimination and needing two wins to advance to the Alberta final.
“This is some adversity that maybe we haven’t faced and that’s a good thing,” said Tobler. “You have to give them (Eagles) credit, they’re playing hard and that’s two overtime wins for them.
“They’re up 3-2 going home but we’ve played well in their building. Our focus now shifts to next Saturday and that’s all that matters.”