The Lacombe Generals’ offence came on strong in their season home opener Friday, exploding for five goals in the third to secure their first victory of the year.
The comeback saw the reigning Allan Cup Hockey West (ACHW) champion Generals hand the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs a 7-4 defeat at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of win they were looking for, but after two periods of the Chiefs beating the “Army” to the puck, the message going into the third was clear.
“Get to simple hockey and start working them down low, get the cycle going and quite going up and down the ice trading chances,” said veteran forward Jesse Todd, who had two goals and two assists on the night. “We’re a team everyone knows likes to cycle down low and grind it out – teams in this league don’t like us play that way so we wanted to get back to that.”
Just 39 seconds into the game, the Generals were a little slow on the back check and the Chiefs’ Michael Desjarlais made no mistake, giving his team the lead. The “Army” had plenty of scoring chances, but failed to capitalize, and then ran into penalty trouble that put them down 5-on-3.
While they managed to kill off both penalties, Desjarlais scored shortly after they expired, chipping the puck over Steven Stanford’s pads. Generals’ veteran defenceman Ian Barteaux responded 29 later with a snap through traffic at the top of the circle, but it was short lived as Dallas Desjarlais got the goal back. The 3-1 deficit would carry into the second period.
Levi Nelson, who was caught with a holding call in the first period, would redeem himself early in the third with a goal assisted by Jesse Todd and Doug Jessey, but Dallas Desjarlais would again respond for the Chiefs.
The teams traded chances for much of the remainder of the second period, including a breakaway where Generals’ Dylan Nowakowski was hauled down, then denied by Chiefs goaltender Ryan Demharter on the ensuing penalty shot.
That changed in the third, however, where the Generals exploded for five goals.
Todd cued the comeback about five minutes in, and just over a minute late Jeremy Beirnes banged home a rebound from a Todd shot to tie the game.
Chase Norrish then passed to Nowakowski to score the eventual game winner, which was followed by another Todd goal. Demharter was pulled by the Chiefs for the extra attacker, but the Generals broke out of their zone, and Nowakowski scored on the empty net for his second of the game.
“They came out good – I think they ran out of a little gas,” said Todd of the Chiefs. “We just want to stick to our game plan – we believe in this room we can ride it out no matter how a game is going and that’s what happened tonight.”
However, reducing the number of goals allowed will be what the Army will aim for moving forward.
“We want to start locking it down early…you want to allow one or two goals a game, not four, so we have some work to do and we’ll get back to it and hopefully lower those goals every game,” he said.
Saturday’s game against the Stony Plain Eagles saw the Generals allow four goals in a 4-3 overtime loss, however. The Eagles opened the scoring late in the second, and added a second goal less than a minute into the third. Despite two quick goals scored 41 seconds apart by Tanner Korchinski and Kyle Stroh, and a third five minutes late by Nelson to take the lead, the Eagles tied the game with just over three minutes left and forced overtime.
It was then that the Eagles took advantage of the Generals’ short bench and tired legs, getting the puck deep in the Generals zone. Ultimately, it was Brendan Baumgartner who scored the dagger, picking the pocket of one of the Generals’ defenceman, and scoring through a screen.
Both their opponents had new players on their rosters, and while the Generals still very much want to bring that Allan Cup home in April, having more parity in the ACHW certainly isn’t a bad thing.
“It’s good for our league. It’s good for competition and to get some better games against them,” said Todd.
The Generals will return home to the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex this Friday, Oct. 19th, for a rematch against the Stony Plain Eagles at 8 p.m. They’ll have a bye week, then host their central Alberta rivals, the Innisfail Eagles, on Oct. 27. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.