For the second year in a row, the Lacombe Generals felt the sting of Allan Cup heartbreak.
Heading into the final against the Stoney Creek Generals with a 2-0-1 tournament record that earned them a quarter-final bye, the “Army” thought they had a good chance to reclaim the senior mens AAA title. Ultimately, however, they were bested by their opponents 7-4 in the game that mattered most.
“We got beat. There’s no excuses. We got beat tonight,” said Generals General Manager Jeff McInnis on the phone from Rosetown, Sask. where the tournament was held. “We didn’t give it away. We made some mistakes, sure, but credit to the opposition, they were the better team today.”
At first, it looked like Army had the upper hand, with Ian Barteaux opening the scoring just 2:45 into the opening frame. Then, the referees got busy dishing penalties.
Lacombe quickly found themselves down two men, and Stoney Creek’s Justin Donati made no mistake to tie the game. Jarrett Konkle slipped a puck between the pads of Lacombe netminder Jacob Deserres to give Stoney Creek their first lead, and with 51 seconds left in the period Stoney Creek Captain Sean Blanchard scored the team’s second power play goal of the game to make it 3-1.
The second period was better for the Generals, with Myles Bell scoring with the man advantage to cut the deficit to 3-2. Nolan Huysmans managed to get behind the Stoney Creek defence while on a penalty kill shortly afterwards, passing to Jesse Todd who finished to tie the game at three.
Momentum seemed to shift, and like the first period, the third started off on a good note for the Army, with Barteaux scoring his second of the game to put the team up 4-3. After that, however, it was all Stoney Creek.
Huysmans once again got on a breakaway, but failed to find the net, sending the puck back the other way, where Nathaniel Pageau tied the game at four. Less than two minutes later Tyler Donati scored what would be the eventual game winner.
Robert Hisey and Justin Sawyer both added empty net daggers for the final 7-4 score, leaving the Army with a loss and at a loss to figure out where exactly they came up short.
“We felt like we had a good enough team to win that game today. We missed a few chances, gave them a few power plays, but I felt our team was good enough,” said McInnis.
He noted the Allan Cup has an unforgiving format where every little mistake can make the difference, and this year’s tournament was the closest the team has seen since 2004 when the six-team format was implemented.
They’ll have a shot at reclaimed the title next year when they host the 2019 Allan Cup in Lacombe. Still, it’s little solace for the team where the expectation and goal of every player is to win every year.
“We’re very proud of our organization and what we’ve accomplished. A loss doesn’t make you less proud but it certainly stings,” he said.
“This championship doesn’t get easier to lose. I remember every one of these losses very clearly – you’ll replay the missed opportunities forever…We’re going to be licking our wounds for awhile.”
The Allan Cup final was the Lacombe Generals 50th Allan Cup tournament game….Shots on goal were 36-33 in favour of Stoney Creek….Lacombe was 1 for 6 on the power play, while Stoney Creek was 2 for 8…A year ago, Lacombe lost to the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts by the same 7-4 score….The Stoney Creek Generals championship win was a first in franchise history.