The Bentley Generals coaching staff spent as much time watching game film and scouting their opposition as they did behind the bench during the Allan Cup.
That extra work paid dividends as they put together a near perfect game plan for their meeting with the Clarenville Caribous in the final of the Allan Cup Saturday.
“We believe you have to prepare to win, something we did all year and all tournament,” said Generals head coach Brandin Cote following a 3-0 victory over the Caribous before a over-flow crowd at the Arena.
“We did our due diligence to know everything about every team we were going to play beforehand. The guys knew what to expect from that team and we put together a game plan.
“They’re a high-flying, high-risk team and we needed to balance that out. We tried to be good defensively, plus be aggressive and we did that to a tee tonight . . . it was unbelievable.”
The Generals were able to consistently put pressure on the Caribous defence with solid forechecking, something few teams did during the tournament.
“They haven’t seen that all tournament and we felt they would struggle if we did that and we have the people to do it. We have big bodies, who can skate and compete and they couldn’t handle that,” said Cote. “At the end of the day we wore them down.”
But it was anything but easy. In fact neither team was able to break through until Chris Neiszner tipped in a Jason Lundmark point shot at 14:09 of the second period, which proved to be all the offence Generals netminder, and tournament MVP, Dan Bakala would need.
“Any time you get the first one to go ahead it’s big and gives you confidence,” said General veteran defenceman and tournament all-star Joe Vandermeer. “And once we got the second one we knew all we had to do was keep it going.”
Scott Doucet made it 2-0 at 18:19 of the middle stanza, when he redirected a Keenan Desmet pass from the corner under Caribous netminder Jason Churchill.
Desmet put the game away at 8:53 of the third period, taking a Brett Robertson feed in the slot and picking the corner on Churchill.
Once that third goal went in Bakala said he could breath a little easier.
“A two-goal lead is the worst in hockey, but when we got the third one it felt good and I felt a little better,” he said.
Bakala, who opened the tournament with a shutout over Rosetown, made 33 saves in blanking the talented Caribous.
“Everyone did a great job. We refused to lose any battles and in the end that helped a lot,” said Bakala, a native of Calgary, who joined the Generals this season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to join.”
Bakala played in all four games for the Generals in the tournament.
“He was unbelievable the way he played,” said Cote. “Today he didn’t have a lot of high-quality chances, but the saves he did have to make he made them. That’s what you need from great goaltenders.”
Overall the Generals did an excellent job of eliminating the Caribous cross-ice passes and their ability to use their speed.
“They’ve been doing that all tournament and no one has been taking it away,” added Cote. “Our guys did a great job of taking their cross-ice passes away and keeping them to the outside. We were getting everyone back and competing. Our guys simply wanted it more.”
“And we really didn’t make any mistakes,” said Vandermeer. “The boys kept it simple and almost played a perfect game. We knew they’d try to go outside on us and we just stayed in front of them.”
Caribous head coach Ivan Hapgood agreed.
“They did a great job of pinching us off the boards and taking away our speed. In the third period we tried to change and work more into the middle, but they’re a veteran club and they responded well to what we were trying to do. When we did get a few chances their goalie came through.”
Hapgood felt both netminders were the players of the game. He also felt they lost to a better team.
“They’re a hell of a team. They were built for this and were in their home barn. We’re not making any excuses as we lost to a good club, who played a great game. At the end of the day we won two years ago and today was their time.”
The Generals, who won the Allan Cup in 2009, lost to the Caribous 5-3 in the 2011 final.
Cote was a player with the Generals the year they lost to the Caribous, so Saturday’s win was extra special.
“It’s not exactly the same as playing, but it feels good and I’m proud of the guys . . . I couldn’t have asked for a better result.”
Neither could team captain Sean Robertson, who gave the crowd accolades for their support.
“The first period was like a chess match, back and forth, but you could feel the crowd getting into it and it started building in the second and it kept getting louder and louder. They were awesome and hats off to them for spending their money and giving us the support.”
Vandermeer was also a part of the team that won in 2009.
“The first is always the best, but this is great winning at home. Credit to the guys putting this team together. We had guys sitting on the sidelines who could have been in the lineup, no question. It’s hard sitting out, but credit to them, they’re part of this team.”
l The Generals finished with 36 shots on Churchill . . . Bentley took five of eight minor penalties . . . Clarenville’s Chris Hulit and Bentley’s Neiszner and Doucet were all-stars up front with Clarenville’s Mike Dyke on defence along with Vandermeer. Bakala was in goal.