Fort St. John Flyers head coach Darrel Leahy isn’t one to make any wild predictions.
In fact when asked how his team compares to the other five teams in the Allan Cup, which opens Monday at the Red Deer Arena, he had to think a bit.
“It’s difficult to tell,” he said.
“We don’t play as many games against triple-A competition as they do in Alberta for instance. The only triple-A team we faced was Powell River in the Savage Cup (B.C. championship). Other than that we played Bentley twice, in November and January, in exhibition play and that was it.”
And the Flyers didn’t have their complete roster against Bentley.
“We were closer to it in January,” he said.
The Flyers made a trip to Innisfail and played the Alberta senior AA champion Eagles in a pair of exhibition games three weeks ago, losing both, but didn’t bring their full team.
“We’ve had a couple of weeks off, which has been good for us,” said Leahy.
“We played as tough five games in five day series (against Powell River) and that takes a lot out of you.”
What they didn’t have to do this year was face Bentley in a best-of-five series for the McKenzie Cup, which also is over five days.
“That’s tough, it’s something that should be looked at,” he said.
“No other region has that tough a schedule to reach the Allan Cup. Most play best-of-three. No matter who wins our Alberta-B.C. playoff it wears them down and then there’s the injuries.”
But that’s not the case this year and the Flyers should be at full strength when they open the six-day tournament Monday at 4 p.m. against the Stony Plain Eagles. They also face the Clarenville Caribous Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“I can’t say I know much about either team,” said Leahy.
“I do know that Clarenville was defeated at home in their league playoffs this year and Stony Plain lost to Bentley (4-0) in the provincial final. So both teams are beatable.”
The Caribous, who won the Allan Cup in 2011, won their league title last year, which earned them a berth in the Cup.
With the Bentley Generals hosting, a second Alberta team also qualified.
The Flyers won the Allan Cup in 2010 when they hosted the event.
“We have more than half our team back from the championship year,” said Leahy, who has both netminders — Troy Hunt and Clayton Pool — and at least half of their defence back from that year.
Hunt is in his ninth season with the Flyers while Pool lives in Abbotsford and is a pickup. The defence is anchored by six-foot-three 265-pound Tyler Loney.
The majority of the forwards are veterans, led by Todd and David Alexander, Paul Weins and Luke Middleton. The Flyers have only four first-year players on their roster and only three of those played during the season.
• The Generals and Rosetown play the other opening game Monday at 8 p.m. . . . The Kenora, Ont., Thistles are the other team in the pool and face Bentley Tuesday at 8 p.m. . . . Top teams in each pool receive a bye into the Friday semifinals while the other teams in each pool meet in cross-over quarter-final games Thursday at 4 and 8 p.m. . . . The final goes Saturday on TSN with a time yet to be announced.