The Lacombe Generals are one away from all the way.
On Friday, the Generals defeated the Rosetown Red Wings 3-1 to advance to the third straight Allan Cup final on Saturday, en route to what they hope is their fourth national title.
The Army, as they’re affectionately known, made it clear from puck drop their mission was to come out hard early, control the play and not give their opponents any leeway.
“You want to establish your game rather than have them establish theirs, so you want to start well,” said Generals Head Coach Sean Robertson. “You don’t really want to stick your toe in the water and see where it goes, you want to see if you can dictate the play.”
Just 1:48 into the first period, Generals forward Kyle Stroh beat Red Wing goaltender Brody Hoffman, and they’d continue to keep pressure on their opponents throughout the game.
It wasn’t until the latter half of the opening frame that the Red Wings even recorded their second shot on net, as turnovers and missed passes plagued the Saskatchewan champions. Eventually, one became costly as Nolan Huysmans grabbed the puck from a Red Wing and headed straight for the net – making no mistake to give the Army a 2-0 lead they’d take to the dressing room.
The second proved to have a little more adversity, as the Generals were forced to kill a series of penalties that put them down 5-on-3 twice in less than a minute. The first 5-on-3 saw the Red Wings come within one as Justin Fox found the mesh behind goaltender Tyler Weiman.
Fortunately, the Generals would manage to kill the second 5-on-3 and stop the Red Wings from gaining any more momentum.
“We had some big efforts – guys like Kyle Ross, Weiman and then some huge efforts on the PK. We’re not talking right now unless we do stymie them on the PK,” said Robertson.
Fortunately, the Generals would not only manage to kill the second 5-on-3, but get the goal back five minutes later as Kyle Ross broke into the zone and scored his first goal of the tournament, however, Dylan Nowakowski was credited as the scorer.
It was shortly after Rosetown would pull their goaltender in favour of Nikolas Amundrud, but it wouldn’t change the score, as the game would end with the Generals ahead 3-1.
Now, the Army will face their central Albertan rivals in the Innisfail Eagles, who stunned last year’s Allan Cup champs in the Stoney Creek Generals 3-2.
“It’s almost like storybook,” said Generals captain Brennan Evans. “You know that at some point you’re going to end up playing them and they played well throughout the tournament. They earned their way to tomorrow night’s game and I think that’ll be the hardest game of the tournament for us, for sure.”
While Lacombe bested them in the Allan Cup Hockey West league championship, and again in the provincial final, those series are out the window heading into tomorrow night’s game.
What’s not completely out the window, however, is the experience of what it’s like to head into that final and come up short – as has happened the past two years, which Evans hopes will change their fate in front of the hometown crowd tomorrow.
“We just need to play out game and not get too excited and not too wound up,” he said. “Just keep an even keel throughout the whole thing. If we get in penalty trouble. playing them there might be a penalty or two but hopefully we can keep it to a minimum and keep to our game.”
Robertson, who has also felt the sting of heartbreak in the Allan Cup final – and the experience of hoisting all three of the Generals’ previous championships – echoed those sentiments.
“We’ve always known (the Eagles) work hard. They’re resilient, they don’t stop and keep coming,”he said. “It’s a one game showdown. They key for us is having our guys play withing themselves and not trying to do too much.”
The 2019 Allan Cup final was announced as being sold out at the end of the Innisfail vs. Stoney Creek game, however, those looking to take in the game locally can do so in the Molson Canadian Hockey House where the live TSN broadcast will be aired.
It was also announced TSN will not air the Allan Cup final live on T.V. as they are replaying the 2019 Masters.
Puck drop is at 6 p.m.