The Powell River Regals are anything but game-tested as they prepare to tangle with the Bentley Generals in tonight’s 7:30 p.m. opening contest of the McKenzie Cup senior AAA hockey series at the Red Deer Arena.
However, while the Regals have been inactive this season and are engaging the Generals in the best-of-five set at the request of BC Hockey, they’ve arrived in Red Deer with a nice mix of talent and experience.
Generals head coach Ryan Tobler certainly isn’t making his club the prohibitive favourite to win the series and advance to the Allan Cup tournament April 14-19 at Dundas, Ont.
“We’re going to prepare like they have the best players available, which they could have,” said Tobler. “It’s been done before. You throw a group like that together and it’s like a trip to the Allan Cup, right? All you have to do is win three games.
“I’m sure that’s their mentality, but we’re standing in their way and we’re going to be ready for whatever they bring. No excuses.”
The Regals accepted the McKenzie Cup challenge despite not playing as a team this season.
The organization, instead, is focusing on resurfacing next season as a AA club that would play exhibition games against northern B.C. teams involved in two separate AA leagues.
One of those teams is the Fort St. John Flyers, who like the Regals have almost always played at the AAA level, but this season decided to drop down a notch which made them ineligible to engage in Allan Cup play.
The Regals have a solid nucleus of players who have been with the club for the past eight years and the current edition of the three-time Allan Cup champions (1996, 2000 and 2006) is a skilled, free-wheeling group minus the physical presence of the Generals.
Tobler’s club will be favoured to move on mainly for the fact the Generals are the defending Allan Cup champions. And the bench boss is focused strictly on his team as Game 1 of the series approaches.
“We’re just going to prepare ourselves, worry about ourselves and how we play no matter who they (Regals) bring in, and that’s all you can do,” said Tobler.
“We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to play the right way and let them know they’ll be in a series right from the get-go.”
The Regals might need a game or two to get into game shape.
Then again, they’re coming into the series minus the bumps and bruises of the Generals, who have played at least games this season, including a rough-and-tumble four-game sweep of the Innisfail Eagles in the recent Alberta final.
“You never know what to expect in a short competition where almost everything goes out the window,” said Tobler. “They have a GM (Tod English) who has a ton of experience and who has won three Allan Cups. He knows what he’s doing and what it takes.
“We’ll prepare ourselves the right way and be ready for the first game.”
The second game of the series is set for Friday at 8:30 p.m., with Game 3 Saturday at 3 p.m.
Fourth and fifth games, if necessary, will be played at 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday.