Flyers 6 Generals 3
The Bentley Generals didn’t seem interested in dictating the flow of Game 2 of the McKenzie Cups series Friday at the Red Deer Arena, so the Fort St. John Flyers took charge.
The Flyers, 5-2 losers in Game 1 Thursday, surrendered the first goal 24 hours later, but never trailed again while skating to a convincing 6-3 win before 1,800 fans and pulling even in the best-of-five Alberta/B.C. senior AAA hockey final that resumes tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Arena.
The Generals were far too generous with the puck and at times just downright flat. The Flyers took advantage of the multitude of turnovers and some sloppy play in the Bentley end and made their hosts pay for their sins.
“We played our style of hockey,” said Fort St. John coach Adam Brash, whose squad grabbed a permanent lead when Adam Loncan scored a power-play goal 1:21 into the second period to snap a 1-1 tie.
The Flyers enjoyed a number of odd-man rushes and outright breakaways, an odd sight to be sure, Brash admitted.
“You don’t often see that many (breakaways) in a playoff game, but I think it was just a function of putting pressure on (the Generals) and forcing them to make bad plays and bad passes.”
Dion Darling’s power-play marker at 9:35 of the opening frame gave the Generals a lead they held for nearly nine minutes. Paul Weins made it 1-1 late in the period when he jammed a loose puck under Generals netminder Cody Rudkowsy following a screened point shot from Tyler Loney, Loncan connected early in the middle stanza and the Flyers pretty much controlled the game from there.
“We had to get a win tonight,” said Brash. “This was big, but we didn’t think of it that way coming into the game, we didn’t have that ‘there is no tomorrow’ attitude. We just wanted to get back to doing what makes us successful and then things would take care of themselves.”
Todd Alexander, on a two-on-one break, upped the count to 3-1 late in the second period and the Flyers threatened to make it a rout when Tyler Brough connected on a power play 29 seconds into the third period and Brett Loney banged in his own rebound two minutes later.
Generals defenceman Don Morrison made it 5-2 at 11:04, knocking a loose puck past Fort St. John goaltender Troy Hunt, and Kevin Smyth pulled Bentley to within two with a man-advantage marker 38 seconds later. The tension mounted when Flyers rearguard Arlo Hadland was called for roughing at 14:03, but teammate Ryan Carter notched a short-handed, breakaway goal at 15:30, and the fans were off to the exits.
“It’s 1-1 and then we give up a goal how many seconds into the second period? And we give up a goal how many seconds into the third period? It tells you about what preparation is,” said Generals head coach Brian Sutter. “They (Flyers) scored three goals from the side of the crease and on rebounds, and they scored two on breakaways when our forwards gave up the puck. We left our goalie high and dry tonight.”
Rudkowsky faced 28 shots, including a pair of second-period breakaways that he stopped. The pick-up from the Stony Plain Eagles, however, did not have a strong game, while Hunt was solid at the other end making 29 saves.
Turnovers and an overall lack of aggression killed the Generals, plain and simple.
“You can’t do that. And when you turn pucks over you’re in the penalty box,” said Sutter of the giveaways. “It wasn’t so much what they (Flyers) did as what we didn’t do. Give them credit for what they did, I respect them for that. But we have to be better. We had too many guys standing around tonight.”
Bentley captain Kent Beagle detected a lack of excitement in the Generals’ dressing room prior to the game.
“It’s a wake-up call for us. Right from the start, I don’t think we were ready to go,” he said. “Before the game the atmosphere in the dressing room just wasn’t the same as what it was before the opening game.”
The fourth game of the series is slated for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and a fifth game, if needed, will go at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The winner will advance to the Allan Cup tournament April 13-18 in Steinbach, Man.
l Long-time Chinook Hockey League president Ray Marsh of Red Deer was honoured prior to Thursday’s game when he received the Hockey Canada senior hockey recognition award for his valuable contribution to senior hockey in Canada.