The Bentley Generals 2014-15 roster features more than a few new faces, but the team’s goal remains the same — to win their last game of the season.
“We’ve set the bar in senior hockey and to keep that bar going up we have to keep going up,” said veteran Generals defenceman Don Morrison. “Everyone is trying to beat us, we’ve always had that target on our backs and that’s what drives us to keep getting better and better every year. Our expectations are to always be in that final game of the season and win it every year. That’s our mentality and we don’t take it lightly. It’s a very serious thing for us.”
The Generals won the Allan Cup in 2013 in Red Deer for the second time in franchise history, then got back to the national senior AAA hockey showcase last spring in Dundas, Ont., and finished with a 1-4 record.
It was time, surmised team manager Jeff McInnis, for change. The Generals, during the off-season, added speed and newer birth certificates.
“I think we are faster and younger this season, and that’s certainly by design,” said McInnis. “That was the modus operandi for our recruiting during the summer. I don’t really sit still a lot. We’ve got a pretty special group and we’d like to keep it going.”
The biggest-name addition during the summer months was Lacombe native and forward Cam Maclise, who in 2013 led the Brooks Bandits to the Royal Bank Cup championship and was named the top junior A player in the nation.
Maclise played at the University of New Brunswick last season, then decided to switch over to Mount Royal University in Calgary. As a result, he has to sit out — or red-shirt — this season with the CIS Cougars and will play for the Generals when he’s not attending classes.
“UNB’s misfortune is, I guess, our good fortune,” said McInnis. “Cam is a Lacombe boy who gets to play near home for a winter while red-shirting.”
The Generals’ new players also include forwards Torrie Dyck, Jade Galbraith, Chance Lund, Alex MacLeod and Scott Aucoin, defenceman Giffen Nyren and goaltender Dustin Butler.
Dyck was a University of Alberta Golden Bears go-to guy last winter as a member of the Canadian championship club’s first line.
“He’s just a really hard-working, relentless, shifty forward,” said McInnis.
Dyck, 26, also has a nose for the net, having sniped 24 goals in two seasons with the Golden Bears and accounting for all three Bentley markers in a 3-1 win over the Innisfail Eagles last Sunday in the final game of the Eagles’ preseason tournament.
As for Galbraith . . .
“He’s a guy who’s been around the pro game for so long in Europe that he was getting into that cycle where he didn’t know what he’d do after he finished playing,” said McInnis. “We are fortunate that he moved here. We helped set him up with a real good job, a good opportunity, and he’s living in Blackfalds.”
The 32-year-old Hinton native played at three different amateur levels — with Drayton Valley of the AJHL, the University of Alaska-Anchorage and later with the WHL Saskatoon Blades. Galbraith then played four winters in the ECHL and another eight seasons in Germany and England.
Lund, 22, is a six-foot-four, 220-pound forward from Fairview who was with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds for four seasons and the Swift Current Broncos for a fifth.
“He’s going to the University of Calgary,” said McInnis. “He played there last year, but he needs to get his grades up so he’s red-shirting this season.”
In the 26-year-old MacLeod, the Generals have a six-foot, 215-pound forward who has toiled in the ECHL and Southern Pro League the last three winters after playing four seasons in the junior A ranks and four more at Michigan Tech.
Aucoin, 25, was a top scorer at Camrose Augustana College from 2010 to 2012. He has yet to suit up with the Generals this fall while nursing a hand injury.
Nyren is right up there on the list of Generals recruits. A four-year WHL offensive defenceman with Moose Jaw, Kamloops and Calgary, the 25-year-old split the 2010-11 season between Abbotsford of the AHL and Utah of the ECHL, and suited up with the U of Calgary Dinosaurs the past two years, scoring 13 goals and collecting 30 points in 24 games last season.
“He’s a guy who can get the puck up the ice in a hurry and he knows some of our guys, so it’s a pretty natural fit,” said McInnis.
Butler, meanwhile, is a five-year WHL veteran with Portland, Kamloops and Prince Albert. He played five years at the U of Calgary before suiting up with the ECHL Colorado Eagles last winter and posting a 3.24 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.
The addition of Butler, 26, and the return of veteran Travis Yonkman gives the Generals a solid one-two punch between the pipes.
“With Yonkman and Butler we feel we have a pretty good tandem,” said McInnis. “People ask me who’s better and I have to tell them that, honestly, I don’t know yet.”
McInnis does know that the current edition of the Generals is potentially better than the 2013-14 crew.
“I believe our club is younger and faster and in a better position to succeed,” he said. “If you look at our players’ graph from last year and where their careers were, we have more guys now who are at the peak of their careers than in the downward trend.”
Added Morrison: “We’ve definitely gotten younger, we’re just solid all the way through just like last year. This year, though, we have some new young legs which will help out. We’re forever improving because the (Chinook) league is always improving.”
Head coach Ryan Tobler welcomes the change in personnel.
“Give credit to (McInnis) for finding these guys and credit to them for committing to come here,” said Tobler. “From what I’ve seen so far, they’ve been nothing but great. I think they’re really going to contribute and help us this year.”
Indeed, so far, so good for the new-look Gens, who are 4-0 in preseason play including a pair of victories in the SAIT tournament.
“We have a winning attitude here and it’s fun to be a part of,” said Tobler. “You like to see a work ethic in the preseason and I was happy with that in all four of our exhibition games.”
The Generals lost their long-time captain during the off-season when Sean Robertson decided to pull the plug on his playing career. But with the likes of Morrison, Curtis Austring and Brett Thurston, among others, still on the roster, McInnis believes the team still has enough on-ice leaders.
“Absolutely. What makes our club special is that we have men who have immersed themselves in it for years and years,” he noted. “Sean is a special guy and as sad as we were to see him go, we knew that day would come. But we have a bunch of guys who have been captains on other teams.”
Morrison, for one, has no problem with taking on an extended leadership role.
“Most definitely, this year moreso than in years past just because of the youth we’ve added,” he said. “I’ve been a leader in the past and I’ll continue.”
The Generals open their Chinook Hockey League season Oct. 19 at 2:30 p.m. in Lacombe against the Stony Plain Eagles.