The Bentley Generals had to scrape off a bit of rust in the early stages of Game 1 of the McKenzie Cup senior AAA hockey championship Friday at the Red Deer Arena.
The Powell River Regals looked rusty throughout, and for good reason.
The B.C. representatives in the best-of-five interprovincial series were making their season debut and it showed in a 5-0 loss to the current Alberta and defending Allan Cup champs before roughly 800 fans.
The game was scoreless after 20 minutes — mainly due to the sparking play of Regals netminder David Brumby — but the Generals, who last played March 21, took over from there and cruised to victory while outshooting their guests 47-18.
“We didn’t have the best of starts. We were doing some good things but maybe because of the time off we had there was a bit of rust,” said Bentley forward Kyle Bailey, who notched a pair of goals.
“But we still took the play to them in the first period and generated some chances. After that we settled in and played a pretty strong second and third.”
Kyle Sheen scored the only goal the Generals would need at 7:12 of the second period, accepting a nifty pass from Keenan Desmet through a pair of skates and beating Brumby with a quick shot from the edge of the circle.
Bailey connected seven minutes later — working off the wall and wiring a shot over Brumby’s shoulder — and the Generals took a 2-0 lead into the second recess.
“We got better in the second period and managed to put a couple in, and in the third it was kind of important to put an exclamation point on the game,” said Bailey, referring to his team’s three-goal final frame that included a short-handed marker from Craig Weller and Garrett Watson’s deflection of a point shot by Scott Kalinchuk.
Bailey rounded out the scoring when he lifted a rebound over Regals’ back-up netminder Craig McCeachraen, who replaced Brumby with three minutes remaining when the Powell River starter left with a groin injury.
The Regals, who arrived in Red Deer without a single game to their credit this season, had just 15 skaters at their disposal.
“We have two more bodies coming in tomorrow,” said Powell River coach Rick Hopper.
“Not having a full lineup hurt us tonight. From the halfway point forward they (Generals) just started clinically taking up apart.
“But that’s the very first game of hockey we’ve played as a team this season. In the warmup I scouted my team to see what we had. We have some college kids but no one else has played contact hockey. Other than that, it was a good effort.”
The Regals bench boss said Brumby, who stopped 40 of 44 shots before leaving, hasn’t been ruled out for Game 2.
“He tweaked his groin,” said Hopper. “He doesn’t think it’s too bad. He might play tomorrow.”
The former minor pro veteran was clearly the visitors’ best player while turning aside a large number of quality shots.
Travis Yonkman wasn’t nearly as busy in the Bentley net, but still came up with a handful of stellar stops. Yonkman stoned Mike Lalonde on a breakaway, slid across the crease to take a goal away from JP Villeneuve and made a dazzling pad save on Jeff Lynch.
But overall, the Generals were in command pretty much the whole way.
“Hopefully they’ll be discouraged for tomorrow,” said Bailey. “But I doubt it. They’ll probably come back harder so we’ll have to be ready.”
Based on past experience, Hopper suggested Game 2 will be more competitive.
“Tomorrow night is a new night,” he said. “The same thing happened to us last year up in Fort St. John (during the B.C. senior AAA final versus the Flyers). We lost the first game 7-3 and the radio guys were saying it was all over. Instead, our guys regrouped and made it a five-game series.”
Game 2 goes tonight at 8:30 p.m., with a third game set for Saturday at 3 p.m. Additional games, if needed, will be played Sunday and Monday.
“The story of the series is it’s always going to be a quick turnaround, so we have to put this behind us as soon as we can,” said Bailey. “We have another big game tomorrow and tonight’s all for nothing if we lose.”
The winner of the series will advance to the Allan Cup tournament April 14-19 at Dundas, Ont.