On most days, the Bentley Generals don’t need any help.
The Sylvan Lake Admirals should have realized that heading into Monday’s opener of their best-of-seven senior AAA hockey provincial semifinal with the heavily-favoured Generals.
Instead, the Admirals marched to the penalty box on a multitude of occasions and gave up three power-play goals in a 6-0 loss before 1,100 fans at the Red Deer Arena.
The game was scoreless through 20 minutes, then the Generals’ power play went to work. Matt Stefanishion, from the high slot, notched the only goal Bentley would need 40 seconds into the middle frame, one-timing a pass from Travis Brigley with the Admirals two men short.
With Bentley still enjoying a man advantage, Curtis Austring scored on a tip-in from the side of the net 32 seconds later, and then added another power-play marker at 3:22, hitting the top corner from 12 feet out.
“It was good to see our power play get it going,” said Generals head coach Brandin Cote. “In our last series (Chinook League championship) against Fort Saskatchewan we had a little bit of a rough one in that department. Today, we told the guys to just keep it simple and I think after the first couple of power plays we found our groove. Again, we just kept it simple, got pucks to the net and found a few goals and got our confidence that way.
“So our power play did a great job and hopefully we keep that going the rest of the series.”
The Generals notched two more goals before the middle period concluded, with Stefanishion scoring at 16:10 and Sean Robertson connecting 40 seconds later, deflecting Brett Thurston’s point shot past Admirals netminder Andy Williams.
Brett Robertson closed out the scoring with 1:32 remaining in the game, his centering pass going in off Williams’ pad. Williams, the Admirals’ best player Monday, turned aside 33 shots, while Jase Weslosky made 18 saves to secure the shutout.
“I like the way we forechecked, I liked the way we pursued the puck,” said Cote. “At the end of the day, it’s tough to control a team that’s playing four lines and just going, going, going . . . rolling over the lines. Overall, we were solid all over the ice. We didn’t have to do a lot defensively and when we did our goalie was there.”
Referee Ryan Bennett doled out 16 minor penalties, including 13 to Sylvan Lake. The Admirals were on the power play on just two occasions — both in the third period with the outcome no longer in doubt — and one was all of 26 seconds long.
“Any time you take 12 penalties to none basically, you’re going to be in trouble,” said Admirals GM/head coach Jason Stephens. “They had a few on the power play tonight and that’s the difference in the game right there.
“We’ve been off three weeks, it’s been a while since we played. But I thought in the first period we played well, we stuck to the system. But in the second period it just started to get away from us. The penalties just caught up to us.”
The Admirals, clearly, will have to steer clear of the penalty box if they hope to get back into the series, which continues Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Sylvan Lake Multiplex.
“Five on five I thought we were right there with them all night,” said Stephens. “Bentley has a great squad, they’ve built a good team to compete in the Allan Cup (the Generals will host the national senior AAA championship tournament April 15-20 at the Arena).
“I think we’re a team that if we utilize our team speed and stick to the system, we’re OK five on five. But we definitely have to stay out of the special teams situations.”
The third game in the series will be played Saturday at Bentley, with a fourth game to go March 1 at Sylvan Lake. Additional games, if needed, are scheduled for March 2 at Bentley, March 8 at Sylvan Lake and March 9 at Bentley.
l Joshua Harneau fired three goals and Blair Manning had a goal and three helpers as the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs opened the other Alberta AAA semifinal Saturday with an 8-5 win over the visiting Stony Plain Eagles.
Joel Andresen notched three goals in a losing cause. The series continues Friday at Stony Plain.