The Lacombe Generals are the best Senior AAA hockey team in Canada.
It was a picture-perfect ending to an imperfect season for the Generals, who clinched their fourth Allan Cup title on home ice Saturday.
After heartbreak in the previous two finals on the road and an up-and-down season, it was some good home cooking and a date with a long-time Central Alberta rival that made for the storybook ending.
The Generals knocked off the Innisfail Eagles 5-2 in what was a thrilling finish to the 2019 Allan Cup.
“This doesn’t happen without these good people. We pride ourselves on character and quality. Definitely, have that in spades on this team,” said Generals head coach Sean Robertson.
“It’s a giant puzzle when you start clicking pieces together, you start getting excited. When you get the last piece here, the Allan Cup– it’s a goal and when you set out to accomplish a goal and you get there, it’s a great feeling.”
The party is absolutely on in Lacombe. @LacombeGenerals win the #2019AllanCup 5-2 over the @innisfaileagles a couple empty net goals make it look worse, but it was a helluva a game that went down to the wire. #seniorAAA pic.twitter.com/ZWsu6aRHWl
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) April 14, 2019
The Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex was absolutely packed to the rafters with 2,000 fans, many in support of the Generals, but a number of Eagles fans made the trek to support their side as well.
On the ice, it was a war between two teams that played each other almost a dozen times this season and there were certainly no secrets or love lost in the final.
Lacombe was the heavyweight and the favourites, winning three of the last 10 Allan Cups and playing in the final each of the last five.
The pesky Eagles, after going 0-2 in round robin, soared through the playoffs with a pair of wins, including knocking off the defending champion Stoney Creek Eagles in the semis.
“When you play three games in three nights, you learn about life… it was tough,” Eagles coach Brian Sutter said.
“We had a lot of guys that played hard and we had some guys who looked tired. It was a 3-2 hockey game. We battled to get here and to get to the last game in the Allan Cup– I’ve been here five times to the fifth game. It always comes down to perseverance and strong minds.”
Your 2019 Viking Projects Ltd. Allan Cup Champions! pic.twitter.com/WqC0so7nGL
— Lacombe Generals (@LacombeGenerals) April 14, 2019
Justin Cox got the Eagles on the board first in the opening frame, despite Innisfail being outshot 6-0 in opening 6 minutes of the game.
The scales then started to tip in the Generals favour as the period went on and it was Chase Norrish who finally found the mark.
He tapped in a great pass from Kyle Stroh to even the game at one while they were playing four-on-four.
Eagles netminder Allen York was key to keeping his team in the game early, turning aside 17 shots in the period.
Lacombe seemed to have a book on York in the second, beating him twice in the span of four minutes.
Jesse Todd sniped his first goal of the tournament high blocker on York early in the second then Dylan Nowakowski did the same two minutes later.
“We have some guys that dug down and went to war,” said Sutter.
“Our D ran out of gas a little bit. They played their hearts out…they played hard. We turned two pucks over in the second period and you can’t do that. If they announced two assists, they didn’t deserve it… they were both turnovers in the neutral zone.”
For much of frame, the three games in three days stretch looked to be catching up to Innisfail.
Cox changed all that, forcing a turnover in the final minute of the second and slipped a wrister past Tyler Weiman to cut the deficit to a goal.
In the third, the Generals controlled play and buried two empty net goals, one from Cody Cartier and the other by Todd in the final minute to secure the Allan Cup victory.
“This is nice. They didn’t make it easy on us. We knew they wouldn’t. I think we earned it. We put in the work all year, those Wednesday practices, the guys driving all the way from Calgary,” said Generals captain Brennan Evans.
“It’s a pretty special feeling. There’s lots of people around, family and friends. It’s pretty awesome, something everyone will remember for a long time.”
Generals defenceman Ian Barteaux, a teacher at Vimy Ridge School in Edmonton was a rock all tournament long for Lacombe and was proud to hoist the 111-year-old trophy in front of friends and family Saturday.
“You just knew in the room it was going to happen. For me, it was my third time here and it only made it more special to win,” said Ian Barteaux, who compared the victory to a CIS national championship he won with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
Robertson added the win makes think about taking another run at the trophy in 2020.
It’s very rewarding,” he said.
“I feel like they’re all my kids, to see them all this happy, it makes you almost want to do it again.”
Notes: Before the trophy presentation, Allan Cup all-stars were named. Eagles Allen York and Shawn Bates were selected, along with Todd, Norrish, Jordie Johnston and Jordan Fransoo. Bates also earned the Bill Saunders Award as the Allan Cup MVP with seven points (3G, 4A) in four games.