Generals 5 Flyers 2
The way the Bentley Generals came out of the gate Thursday it looked as if the Alberta/B.C. senior AAA hockey playoff would be short and sweet.
But the Fort St. John Flyers had other ideas.
Although the Generals registered a 5-2 victory over the Flyers in the opening game of the best-of-five McKenzie Cup playoff before over 2,000 fans at the Arena, it was far from a cakewalk.
The Generals grabbed a 4-0 first-period lead, but the second period was a different story. The Generals seemed to let down and the Flyers picked up their pace and as a result Bentley’s led was cut to 4-2 after 40 minutes.
“We really skated in that first period and made them take a lot of penalties, then in the second we stopped skating, turned the puck over, especially early, and let them back in it,” said Generals head coach Brian Sutter.
The Flyers didn’t seem ready to play the game with speed in the opening period. Either they still had their bus legs or weren’t used to playing the game at the same tempo the Generals needed in winning Alberta.
“Maybe a little of both,” said Flyers head coach Adam Brash. “I was disappointed with our energy coming out in the first period, especially in a big series like this. But we regrouped in the second and showed them what we can bring. To bad we got behind that many in the first.”
Ryan Manitowich got the Generals rolling at 2:01 of the first period, taking a stretch pass as he broke down the left side and beat Flyers netminder Chad Vizzutti on a breakaway.
Then the Generals power play took over as Kevin Smyth connected at 8:03, Kurt Bensmiller at 14:17 and Smyth again, this time with a two-man advantage, at 18:42.
“Our power play was good at the start, but we got a little lax at the end,” said Smyth. “We have to be better. We have to get pucks to the net and get bodies in front, that’s how we got our first two (power play) goals.”
But Smyth agreed the Flyers played more the way they expected as the game wore on.
“They got better and better. I thought they looked a little tired at the start, then we got a little lazy and they started finishing their checks and we stopped finishing ours. They’re a good hockey team and here for a reason.”
The Flyers dominated the scoresheet in the middle stanza, outshooting the Generals 14-4 and getting goals from David Alexander and Ian Munro against Generals netminder Cody Rudowsky, a pickup from the Stony Plain Eagles.
“They’re competitive, which we knew they would be,” said Sutter. “They can skate and take a lot of pride in what they’re doing. But I thought we let them off the hook a bit tonight.”
Sutter had a little talk with his troops following the second period and they played a solid third period, holding a 14-8 edge in shots and getting the lone goal of the period from Chris Martini at 8:43.
“We knew we had to be better and we were,” said Sutter, who saw a lot of good things.
“We got a lot of good efforts. Our muckers and grinders were good and when our scorers needed to be good on the power play they were.”
Brash says the Flyers will be better as well.
“We’re confident we’ll come back tomorrow and show a different style . . . get back to our banging and crashing style and create more turnovers and get more pucks to the net . . . the little things that wins you hockey games.”
The Generals finished with 38 shots on Vizzutti while Rudowsky made 27 saves.
Sutter decided to go with Rudowsky over Scott Galenza once the Eagles netminder agreed to join the team.
“It wasn’t an easy decision as they’ve both been good, but we just felt Cody has been especially good,” said Sutter.
The series continues tonight and Saturday and if necessary Sunday and Monday. All games go at 7:30 p.m. at the Arena.
Contact Danny Rode at firstname.lastname@example.org