CLARENVILLE, N.L. — The Bentley Generals had their sights set on today’s Allan Cup final and they weren’t going to be denied their berth in the national senior AAA hockey championship contest.
The Generals battled back from a 3-2 third-period deficit, gave up a tying goal with 36 seconds left, then got an overtime marker from former Yale University defenceman Colin Dueck to defeat the Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Cataracts 5-4 in a semifinal Friday.
Dueck connected from the left point a mere 20 seconds into overtime to lift the Generals into today’s 3 p.m. (MDT) final against the Southeast Prairie Thunder of Manitoba, who defeated the host Clarenville Cougars 4-1 in Friday’s late semifinal.
“It was one of the most emotional games I’ve been a part of,” said Generals head coach Ryan Tobler, following his club’s semifinal conquest. “We found a way, that’s basically the best way to sum it up.
“We found a way. We battled, we never quit. We were resilient. Credit to the guys, they stuck with it. We had a great bench all night and it paid off.”
Teegan Moore gave the Alberta champions a 1-0 lead 6:22 into the game and Colin Cirelli drew the Cataracts even before the intermission.
From there, Generals first-year forward Torrie Dyck potted a power-play at 5:53 of the second period and the Cataracts’ Pat O’Keefe responded with one second remaining in the frame.
Cirelli notched a man-advantage marker at 8:05 of the third period to give Grand Falls-Windsor their first lead of the evening, but the Generals rallied with a pair of goals — off the sticks of Josh Smith at the 12-minute mark and Cam Maclise at 14:10 — to move back in front.
With time winding down, Cirelli completed his hat trick with a power-play tally at 19:24, setting the stage for Dueck’s extra-time heroics.
Dustin Butler made 29 saves as the winning netminder, while A.J. Whiffen turned aside 32 shots in the Cataracts net. Grand Falls-Windsor was two-for eight on the power play, with the Generals going one-for-eight.
“They’re a very good team,” Tobler said of the Cataracts. “They have a lot of skill and their power play is lethal. We have a lot of respect for them, they have us a heck of a series.
Next up, the Prairie Thunder. The Manitoba/Saskatchewan champs disappointed an overflow pro-Caribous gathering of close to 3,000 to reach the final, which will be televised by TSN3, who will interview Tobler prior to the contest and Generals defenceman Giffen Nyren between periods.
“We’re going to catch the next (semifinal) right now and do some scouting and see what we’re up against,” said Tobler, prior to the Clarenville-Southeast Prairie Thunder game. “We’re looking forward to the final.”
• Steve Christie turned aside 43 shots and Del Cowan scored one goal and assisted on two others to lead the Prairie Thunder past the Caribous. Riley Dudar, Dustin Hughes and Nick Cowan also tallied for Southeast, while Chad Denny notched a first-period marker for the hosts.
Clarenville goaltender Jason Churchill made 21 saves.