The Lacombe Generals are once again Allan Cup champions.
In their third straight appearance in the final, the stars finally aligned for the team Saturday night and they claimed their fourth national title in franchise history.
The 5-2 final victory over the Innisfail Eagles on home ice was exactly the ending the Generals were looking for in what has been one of their rougher seasons in recent years.
“The journey makes it that much sweeter,” said Generals Head Coach Sean Robertson. “It’s a lot of frustration many nights. It’s a giant puzzle and when you start clicking pieces together, you start getting excited. Then, when you get the last piece – that Allan Cup – it’s a goal and when you set out to accomplish a goal and you get there, it’s a great feeling.
“This doesn’t happen without these good people. We pride ourselves on character and quality – we definitely have that in spades on this team.”
The Army marched out to a strong start, not allowing the Eagles to even register a shot until about eight minutes into the period. They’d have a couple of minor setbacks as one of the Eagle’s first shots – a sharp angle shot by their semifinal hero Justin Cox – would trickle past General goaltender Tyler Weiman to open the scoring, followed be a series of penalties midway through the frame.
However, the Generals would shut down the Eagles power play, and with just a minute and 50 seconds before the end of the frame, Generals defenceman Chase Norrish beat a sprawling Allen York to send both teams to the dressing room tied at one.
It was two quick goals in the second period that would lift the Generals over the Eagles, including one from Jesse Todd 4:50 in, followed by a Dylan Nowakowski goal two minutes later. Cox would get one back late in the frame with his second of the game, but the Generals wouldn’t surrender their lead.
In the third, the Generals were clearly the team with more gas in the tank, and while York would keep them from scoring again, they’d advance their lead once he was pulled with two back-to-back empty net goals form Cody Cartier and Todd to secure their fourth national title.
“We knew from experience having three games in three nights and five games in six nights like they had takes a toll on a body – especially guys who aren’t professional athletes and you know, gotta go to work on Monday,” said Generals captain Brennan Evans. “You could see they started to get a little tired in the third and I think we had a little more legs.”
The victory – their first since relocating to Lacombe from Bentley three years ago – came in front of 2,000 fans at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex, and more in the Molson Canadian Hockey House in the curling rink next door where the live stream was broadcast.
Some of the fans made the trip from Innisfail, so war on the ice was reflected in dueling chants in the stands, creating a loud, electric atmosphere.
“This is awesome – this is exactly what we wanted when we set out to host this thing,” said Robertson of the crowd. “There is this many people that follow us and travel with us and support us and its insane in senior hockey. It doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
That support from the hometown crowd made the win that much better.
“It’s a pretty special feeling to be able to do this. Obviously there’s lots of people around – family and friends,” said Evans, who said his post-tournament celebration plans involve trying to catch up on sleep after a long tournament. “It’s pretty awesome and something everyone will remember for a long time.”
Generals veteran and defensive stalwart Ian Barteaux, who teaches at Edmonton Public School’s Vimy Ridge, gave credit to to the Eagles, but said the Generals truly felt it was their night.
“We just kind of knew in the room that it was going to happen tonight. For me, it was my third time here and it only made it more special to win tonight,” he said.
“We didn’t leave anything left to chance and they (the Eagles) didn’t leave anything left to chance so kudos to them for making us be honest and giving us a good game tonight.”
As for Robertson, who has now been a factor in all four of the team’s Allan Cups, he may already be eyeing a run for their fifth.
“It’s a bit of a helpless feeling, but at the same time it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I feel like these are all my kids and to see them this happy, it makes you almost want to do it again.”