Generals 5 Flyers 1
Down to their final life the Bentley Generals turned in one of their better performances of the McKenzie Cup senior AA championship.
The Generals were solid at both ends of the rink as they dumped the Fort St. John Flyers 5-1 before a full house at the Arena Sunday to even the best-of-five series 2-2 and set the stage for the deciding game tonight at 7 p.m. at the Arena.
“That’s how we normally play, we go hard from whistle to whistle,” said Generals head coach Brian Sutter, whose squad did a much better job of forechecking than they did in Games 2 and 3 when they blew leads and lost both.
“Part of the reason we spent more time in their zone was that we were good away from the puck . . . we had good positioning,” added Sutter. “We talked last night that they didn’t have to work hard for their goals as we were a little careless.”
But the Flyers weren’t without their chances. In fact in the first period when they enjoyed four power plays they twice missed open nets.
“We had our chances, in fact we probably out-chanced them in a fairly evenly played first period,” said Flyers head coach Darrell Leahy.
“But they scored on their chances. Our power play had chances, but they blocked a lot of shots and we didn’t get enough through to their tender.”
The Generals led 1-0 after the opening period as Jim Vandermeer’s screened shot beat Flyers netminder Clayton Pool at 8:35 on the power play.
“There’s an old saying that the harder you work the luckier you get,” said Sutter, who admitted they got a couple breaks in the opening period. “But success comes when hard work and opportunity come together and that’s where we were tonight.”
The Generals were outshot 9-7 in the second period, but overall they were the better team. Don Morrison made it 2-0 at 13:11 when he was left alone in front and redirected Curtis Austring’s feed high to Pool’s glove side. Former Red Deer Rebel Scott Doucet made it 3-0 at 18:18, taking a pass from Karey Pieper, also a former Rebel, on a three-on-two and whipping a perfect shot to Pool’s stick side.
“Pieper had a hell-of-a game as did Doucet,” said Sutter. “In fact there wasn’t a guy in the lineup who didn’t contribute. But that’s how we are as a team and how we coach. We try to make everyone feel important and put them all in important roles.”
David Alexander scored for the Flyers at 1:02 of the third period on a scramble after what appeared to a missed-call on an icing.
“That was a blatant icing, just a bad, bad call. It’s unacceptable,” said Sutter.
But the Generals shook off the play and Darryl Laplante took over, thanks to some outstanding passing. First he connected art 7:36 after a perfect three-way passing play from Travis Brigley to Austring to Laplante, who had the open side. Doucet was the architect of Laplante’s second goal at 12:06 as he refused to give the puck away along the boards and behind the net, even drawing a delayed penalty.
He held it until Laplante came off the bench for goaltender Scott Galenza and he found the veteran winger in the slot from where he easily beat Pool.
“It was one of those nights where we played good as a team and things were bouncing our way,” said Doucet, who played with Pieper and Jeff Hansen.
“We’ve been together for a few games now and getting to know each other,” he said. “We just try to work hard, keep it simple and good things happen.
“This was an all or nothing game and we came together as a group. The mood in the room before the game was very serious, more so than any team I’ve ever been with.”
The Generals also received a boost just minutes prior to the game when Kurt and Chance Bensmiller showed up after playing in the provincial senior A final Sunday afternoon in Provost.
Kurt Bensmiller was able to fill in up front for Braden Appleby, who cut his wrist on a skate Saturday.
“He’s going to be out for a long while,” said Sutter. “It’s a loss as he was our best players since he came on board. But we’ve battled through injuries all season and when that happens the guys bear down and ask more from themselves. It’s special when that happens.”
Both Sutter and Leahy expect even more of a battle tonight.
“It’s like the good Lord is testing us and as a coach we want to be tested as we prepare for something down the street. It’s the way it should be.”
“We weren’t over confident,” said Leahy. “We expected a battle and they showed up. We know it won’t be easy tomorrow.”
• Generals had 33 shots on Pool, who was replaced by Troy Hunt at 12:06 of the third period and faced four shots . . . Galenza made 31 saves . . . The Bensmillers helped Dewberry to a 4-3 win over Innisfail in the provincial senior A final . . . Kurt Bensmiller was named to the second all-star team along with Andrew MacKenzie of Innisfail . . . Provost, led by tournament MVP and all-star goaltender Jordan Alford, beat Spirit River 5-2 in AA final.