Not even an odd two-game, most-goals-wins series could make the Lacombe Generals abdicate the Hockey Alberta Senior AAA throne.
For a seventh straight year, and the 13th time in the last 16 years, the Generals took the provincial crown, this time besting the Innisfail Eagles by a collective score of 7-4 over the weekend.
It was the early battle – a 4-1 win in Innisfail Saturday – that won the war for the hometown team, as the second ended in a 3-3 draw.
While it wasn’t their most dominant win in years past – they defeated the Stony Plain Eagles 4-1 in a best-of-five series last year – it was perhaps one of their more emblematic victories.
“Tonight was a summary of our season. We didn’t do it pretty and we kind of found a way to do it, even though we didn’t win the game,” said Generals Captain Brennan Evans. “We knew where we were at because of last night…The two-game, total points is kind of weird in hockey – you don’t see that very often.
“It’s a character thing. There’s a lot of pride in that room and that’s why we’re here and why we’ve won the province 13 of the past 16 years.”
Sunday’s game was certainly a grind, with no love lost between the two central Albertan teams.
It took until late in the first period for Eagle Chad Robinson to open the scoring, but the lead lasted mere minutes in the second as Generals forward Nathan Deck capitalized on the power play just ___ to tie the game. Both teams spent the rest of the period exercising special teams, with neither making any headway.
In the third, Steven Phee put the Generals ahead, but Kurt Bensmiller then tied it for the Eagles. In the final minutes of the period, the Eagles ramped up the pressure. Taylor Mulder, a Lacombian playing for the opposition, put the Eagles ahead 3-2 with 2:43. However, the Eagles still trailed four goals collectively, and the decision was made to pull the goalie.
Cody Cartier would score on the empty net for the Generals with seconds left to play.
Mulder’s elder brother Blair, a defenceman for the Eagles, says he wasn’t a fan of the two-game, total-points format either.
“It doesn’t really indicate who the better team is,” he said. “I thought we had a good game tonight – we came out, we had them. Not usually are you up in a game and pull your goalie. We were trying, obviously, to get the lead for the series.
“It was a good game though – fast-paced. I thought we outplayed them. It was good to set the tone for next week.”
Both teams have booked spots in the Allan Cup – the Generals, of course, as hosts and the Eagles as the provincial representatives thanks to their 4-2, best-of-seven provincial semifinal defeat of the Stony Plain Eagles last week.
As such, the challenge over the weekend for the Generals was making sure they weren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“It was a goal of ours. We accomplished it. It wasn’t easy – it took all of us to do it, but as I’ve said before, it’s nice when you earn your way in and we earned our way in,” said Generals Head Coach Sean Robertson. “Our focus was that these are very important games and we had to approach them the right way. We didn’t want to take a step back and rather take a step forward and I thought we took a step forward (Saturday) night.
“We won our league, we won our province, and so we’re just focused on Monday night against Southeast at 8 p.m..”
For the full Allan Cup tournament schedule, visit www.allancup.ca.