Fort St. John Flyers head coach Adam Brash has a good idea of what to expect when the Flyers open the McKenzie Cup against the Bentley Generals Thursday at the Arena.
It’s the third year in a row the two have met in the best-of-five B.C.-Alberta senior AAA final.
The Generals won the previous two championships — 3-2 in Red Deer in 2007 and 3-1 in Fort St. John last year.
“I think we know what to expect, but I also don’t think Bentley will be the same team we faced last year,” said Brash.
“They don’t have the same scoring leaders they had last year with (Dwayne) Hay, (Terry) Ryan, (Mark) Woolf and (Darryl) Laplante all gone.
“With Sutter (head coach Brian Sutter) back from two years ago they’ll be more of a meat and potato type of team, similar to us.”
With that Brash is predicting a tough, physical series.
“Nothing fancy,” he said. “We’re not a team that relies on any one player, but we play physical hockey and come at you in waves.”
But the Flyers are not without talent, the problem is one of their biggest offensive threats — defenceman Kip Noble — will be watching from the bench.
Noble was injured in the team’s North Peace Hockey League final series against Grande Prairie and will be helping Brash on the bench for the Generals series.
“We expect he could be back if we win this series,” Brash said.
Noble led the Flyers in scoring during the regular season with 22 goals and 49 assists in 26 games.
His loss does take away a lot of the team’s offence from the defence.
“We won’t rely on any one player to provide that offence, we’ll keep the defence simple and take care of our end,” said Brash.
“We have talent on the back end, but we’ll rely on the forwards to provide the offence.”
And the Flyers, who won the North Peace title, aren’t short of talent up front, led by veteran Todd Alexander, who led the team with 25 goals during the regular season.
Dustin Kersey, who along with former Kamloops junior Rod Stevens, was added to the roster to provide experience and depth and finished third in team scoring during the season with 19 goals and 39 assists and led the team with 14 goals in nine playoff games.
Stevens, who had 51 goals and 58 assists for Kamloops in the 1993-94 Western Hockey League season, is expected to join the team in Red Deer.
“Rod and Dustin add to our experience, but we also added some young legs with the line of Jeff Fast, Clayton Bham and Jeff Shipton,” added Brash. “All three players junior together and while they don’t have a lot of size, they have speed and have played well for us.”
Fast and Shipton both averaged close to two points per game during the season and the playoffs.
Brash believes the team is solid in goal with Troy Hunt and Chad Vizzutti.
Hunt led the North Peace league with a 2.32 goals-against-average during the season while posting a 12-1-1 record.
Vizzutti played briefly during the regular season and brings with him experience, having won three Allan Cup championships with Powell River.
“From what I’ve seen we’ll likely split the goaltending . . . we feel comfortable with both guys,” added Brash.
• The McKenzie Cup goes Thursday through Monday, if necessary, with games at 7:30 p.m. each night . . . The winner of the series goes to the Allan Cup in Steinbach, Man., April 13-18 . . . Steinbach and the Southeast Prairie Thunder of Manitoba, Lloydminster and Thunder Bay and Dundas from Ontario have already qualified for the national final.
Contact Danny Rode at firstname.lastname@example.org