Generals 4 Eagles 3
The Bentley Generals didn’t hit the snooze button when the alarm sounded Sunday.
The alarm went off early as the Generals spotted the Innisfail Eagles a 2-0 lead barely four minutes into the second game of the best-of-seven Alberta senior AAA hockey championship series before roughly 1,000 fans at the Red Deer Arena.
Bentley roared back with four unanswered goals before the first period expired, then hung on for a 4-3 victory. The series resumes next weekend with Games 3 and 4 at Innisfail.
The Alberta champion will advance directly to the Allan Cup tournament April 13-18 in Clarenville, Nfld.
Ty Clay connected for the Eagles just 35 seconds into Sunday’s contest, looking off on a two-on-one break and beating Generals netminder Travis Yonkman with a wrist shot. Clay scored again at 4:18, depositing a rebound, and the Eagles were up 2-0 before all of the fans were in their seats.
“We knew they were going to come hard and there was no panic on the bench,” said Bentley head coach Ryan Tobler. “We were playing OK, they just got a couple bounces. It’s how you respond and we’ve done that all year.”
Chance Lund ignited the Generals’ comeback with a goal at 5:32 and Cam Maclise pulled Bentley even a mere 23 seconds later with a bullet from just inside the blueline.
From there, Kyle Sheen cashed a rebound at 16:43 and Giffen Nyren beat Eagles netminder Steven Stanford with a one-timer from the high slot at 18:01. The Generals were operating with a five-on-three power play when Nyren scored.
“We had a five to 10 minute lapse there where they got a few quick ones back,” said Innisfail captain Joe Vandermeer. “We took some selfish, undisciplined penalties and they cost us in the end. The winning goal was a five-on-three.
“Other than that I thought we took it to them. They just got a couple more bounces tonight.”
Vandermeer potted the Eagles’ third goal with a snapshot from just inside the point. The power-play tally, at 15:30 of the middle frame, closed out the scoring.
The Generals held an 8-7 edge in shots during a scoreless third period and outshot the Eagles 28-21 overall.
The contest was a chippy, hard-hitting affair, which didn’t surprise either team.
“We expected this, it’s what we got last year when we faced them (in the provincial final),” said Tobler. “It’s four wins to get to Newfoundland, both sides know what’s on the line. So far this is what we expected. It’s a tough series.
“They (Eagles) are the same, hard-working team they were last year. They have a lot of returning guys and some affiliates they didn’t have last year. The guys they brought in are doing a good job for them. They’re a similar team, they just have another year under their belts together.”
“It’s the (provincial) final, the intensity is going to be there, for sure,” said Vandermeer, outside of the Eagles dressing room.
The Generals notched three unanswered third-period goals en route to a 5-2 win in Game 1 Saturday at the Arena.
Sheen snapped a 2-2 deadlock with his third of the night at 7:28 of the final frame and goals from Curtis Austring and AJ Gale (power play) sealed the deal.
Kyle Lapenskie and Justin Cox were the Eagles marksmen. Dustin Butler made 23 saves as the winning goaltender, while Stanford turned aside 44 shots.
“To come back this way after Game 1 . . . we showed a lot of good things and a lot of character,” said Vandermeer. “We got things going in the right direction.”
Despite holding a 2-0 lead in the series, Tobler stressed that the Generals won’t be playing it safe in Games 3 and 4 at Innisfail.
“We don’t take anyone for granted, that’s not who we are,” he insisted. “We respect our opponents and we play the right way.
“We’re back at it next weekend. We’ll go back to work Wednesday in practice and get ready. We have to go into their building. It won’t be easy but we’ll be ready.”
And the Eagles will be waiting, said Vandermeer.
“This series is going to be a battle all the way through,” he said. “We’re here to play seven games. We lost the first two but we go back home now where we’ve done a lot of good things.”
• The Generals lost forwards Austring and Kyle Bailey to injuries Sunday. Tobler didn’t have an injury update on either player, although Austring, who took a puck to the face and was later sporting a few stitches, tweeted that he’ll be at practice Wednesday.