championships and have made more appearances than any other senior hockey team at the Allan Cup in the past decade, but the championship itself has eluded them more times than they would’ve liked.
On Monday, they’ll begin their quest to fix that, seeking their fourth national title as they host the 2019 Viking Projects Allan Cup at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe.
On Sunday, they officially earned their way in as the Alberta provincial champions, despite being given a berth into the tournament as hosts, and they’re hoping that will help them finally capture that title.
“It’s been a long time coming. I think with this team, the Allan Cup has been a goal every year and guys are chomping at the bit,” said Generals Captain Brennan Evans. “I think we’re doing exactly what we need to do…We’ve been doing things the right way for the most part.
“We just need to know the strengths of our team and our identity and play to it.”
Generals General Manager Jeff McInnis says losing the past few years has stung, but he’s unsure of anything tangible or within their control they could change to make sure the team does capture that championship.
“When you’re talking about beating everyone and anyone, it comes down to the finest of wires. We were up 4-3 in the third period in last year’s final, and they scored two in the middle of the period and that was it,” he said. “I don’t have the answer beyond what it takes to build a team and we think we’ve built a very good team.
“I could give you all the clichés of defence-first and discipline and intangibles, but every hockey fan knows that.”
That said, he believes they’ve done everything they could to set themselves up for success.
“I’m 100 per cent confident that our group couldn’t have worked any harder or been more diligent,” he said. “There’s nothing more we could do.
“It’s been a long hard journey – hosting this thing is a lot of work. A lot of people have put in a lot of hours to make it happen.”
The Generals previously hosted the tournament in 2013 in Red Deer, but they feel this tournament will be even better, given their experience, and the fact the tournament is being held in a place they can call home.
“It makes it a little bit better, being in our own community,” said McInnis. “We’re pretty proud of our home games, our venue and our town and how we’ve become the local team. Not much has changed, but we’ve grown and added some Lacombe-based volunteers that really make it feel like home.”
As such, the tournament will act as somewhat of a housewarming party for the team.
It was just four years ago that the then-Bentley Generals announced they would leave the community of Bentley in December 2015, due to attendance, and finished their 2015-16 season playing in Lacombe, where it became clear they’d found a new place to take root.
“I remember our coach at the time, Ryan Tobler, saying: ‘There’s a love affair here,’ and there was a love affair,” said McInnis. “The town and the team both kind of fell for each other…It was perfect.”
In the spring, the move, and a change of name from the Bentley Generals to the Lacombe Generals took place. Renovations commenced on the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex, and half way through the first season they officially stepped onto the ice for the first time in their new home.
It took a couple of seasons to fully settle in – the most recent of which saw the Generals paint the bleachers in their characteristic blue and gold – but they’re happy with the way the community has embraced them.
Not that there aren’t still changes they’d like to see in the area of support.
Senior hockey is always a struggle financially, given the leagues are “working mens leagues” and they’re not able to play as many games or promote themselves in the way major junior teams and other levels might.
“We’re not always as current as we could be because we don’t play as many games,” he said. “The NFL model where you starve fans and they get excited for a game could be looked at, but you could also say that we don’t play enough games that people are always thinking about us…Those are some of the constraints we have to deal with.”
Even this year, the Generals played at the start of March, and didn’t take the ice at home for fans until March 31, which he said is “devastating” in terms of keeping them relevant.
However, the 2019 Viking Projects Allan Cup promises to have packed stands every night, and they’re down to about 150 tickets left per game, so those looking to purchase at the door ahead of the games may want to get there early if they don’t want to purchase in advance.
“It’ll be down to slim pickings. There’s not a lot left,” said McInnis.
Fortunately, should any games be sold out, the Molson Canadian Hockey House, which will be located in the Freightliner of Red Deer Curling Complex next door to the arena, will have three large projection screens displaying the broadcast of the games and the TSN final.
For more details, visit www.allancup.ca.
The Innisfail Eagles are making history, appearing at the Allan Cup tournament for the first time in the franchise’s 71 years.
And they’re looking to make up for both their Allan Cup Hockey West finals and Hockey Alberta Provincial Senior AAA finals losses which came at the Lacombe Generals.
Innisfail finished third in ACHW standings in the regular season with a 9-8-0-1 record, and made it to the ACHW finals where they were swept by the Generals 3-0 in a best-of-five series.
Innisfail then had to duke it out with the Stony Plain Eagles in a best-of-seven provincial semifinal, where they bested their opponents four games to two, including a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 6 to secure an Allan Cup berth. In the provincial final, however, they came up short, losing by an aggregate score of 7-4 to Lacombe (See Page 13 for more).
The team may not be on home ice, but they’re sure to have a numerous fans in the stands at every game – especially considering their roster features a pair of Lacombe brothers in Blair and Taylor Mulder.
The Eagles will be forced to practice in Red Deer ahead of the tournament, as the ice is being taken out in their home arena. They will play in the opening game of the tournament on April 8 against the Rosetown Red Wings at 4 p.m.
Rosetown Red Wings
A year ago, the Rosetown Red Wings were the hosts of the Allan Cup tournament and came up short with a 0-1-2-0 record that saw them fall in the quarterfinals.
This year, as the Saskatchewan representatives, they’ll look to not just improve upon that, but go all the way and win their first Allan Cup.
In the regular season, the Red Wings and Lacombe Generals fought for first place in ACHW standings all year, with their 11-7-0-0 record and +10 goal differential being edged by Lacombe’s 10-6-0-2 record and +12 goal differential for top spot.
In ACHW playoffs, the Red Wings were bounced in the first round by the Innisfail Eagles 3-0 in a best-of-five series.
Rosetown last made the finals in 2012 where they were defeated 4-1 by the South East Prairie Thunder, and they also participated in the 2013 tournament hosted by the Bentley Generals in Red Deer.
South East Prairie Thunder
The South East Prairie Thunder, like the Lacombe Generals, are also no strangers to the Allan Cup, making their seventh straight appearance at the tournament, and so it’s only fitting the two teams will play each other first in the tournament on April 8.
The Prairie Thunder, who are based in Steinbach, Man., have made nine total appearances at the tournament. Their first was in 2009, where they made it all the way to the final, but were bested 4-3 in double overtime to the then-Bentley Generals.
They won their first Allan Cup in 2012 where they defeated the Rosetown Redwings 4-1. Their second Allan Cup came in 2015, where they shutout Bentley 2-0.
They were also finalists in 2016.
This year, they punched their ticket to the tournament by sweeping the Ste. Anne Aces in their best-of-three Hockey Manitoba Provincial Senior AAA finals series, including a 4-3 double overtime victory and a 4-0 shutout.
Stoney Creek Generals
The Stoney Creek Generals, who hail from a community in Hamilton, Ont., are just six years old, but already are trying to do what no team has done in over 30 years – win the Allan Cup in back-to-back years.
Last year, the team won the Allan Cup for the first time, defeating the Lacombe Generals 7- 4 in the final.
This year, they’ll make their fourth consecutive appearance at the tournament after winning the Allan Cup Hockey league’s regular season with an 18-5-1 record, and sweeping the Whitby Dunlops 4-0 in a the best-of-seven Roberston Cup finals series.
Stoney Creek’s first game of the tournament will be on Tuesday, April 9 against the Innisfail Eagles at 4 p.m. They will play the Rosetown Redwings at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10.
The Haut-Madawaska Panthers will not only be representing their own community of St. Francois de Madawaksa in New Brunswick, but the entire Atlantic region at the Allan Cup as Newfoundland and Labrador chose not to send a representative this year.
The team plays in the Circuit de Hockey Senior Roger-Lizotte, and were the 2017-18 playoff champions. This year, they fell in semifinals to the St. Quentin Castors four games to three in a best-of-seven series, but had a 21-5-0-2 record in the regular season.
The Panthers have no prior Allan Cup tournament history.
For more information on the tournament and schedule, visit www.allancup.ca.