The Lacombe AA Hockey Club christened their new facility with their first win of the North Central Hockey League (NCHL) season.
On Sunday, the team – formerly known as the Eckville Eagles – defeated the Westlock Warriors 5-1 in their inaugural game at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex
“It was good. We were down 1-0 early, but I knew we’d respond and the boys played a real strong game,” said Head Coach Reed Watts. “Five-on-five the guys are really rolling, starting to click. We’re starting to get some continuity with the lines. It was nice.”
Midway through the first period, Westlock Warrior Liam Hauser beat Lacombe goaltender Travis Yonkman to open the scoring, but it would be Warriors only goal of the game.
Late in the frame, however, after one of Lacombe’s players got a little too close to the Warrior goaltender Graeme Harrington, he was checked from behind, resulting in a pile up at the Westlock net. Lacombe came out with the two-man advantage, and it didn’t take long for Arseni Oursov to make use of the extra space on the ice and score Lacombe’s first goal in the arena to tie the game.
“We were lucky to come out with the odd man there,” said Watts. “Then we scored quick on that 5-on-3 – that really put some wind in our sales and we used that in the second to keep going.”
Less than three minutes into the second frame, Andrew Bergmann came down the left side and beat Harrington’s glove. Just 60 seconds later Scott Kallis added the insurance goal from the point.
“When you take care of your own end, good things happen. Everyone was going, which was good. Our goalie was phenomenal – give him a lot of credit,” said Bergmann.
Their scoring momentum would be tempered, however, for the rest of the period with penalties, which Watts said he saw coming after their first period powerplay. Fortunately, they managed to prevent any goals against.
In the third, Jagger Bowles, and former Innisfail Eagle Taylor Mulder, added the extra goals. Mulder would also drop the gloves late in the game, while goaltender Yonkman would stop 32 of 33 shots in the win. Lacombe directed 38 shots towards the Warriors’ net.
While they’ve got their first win, and improved their record to 1-2-0, there’s still more to build on moving forward.
“We really need to work on our defensive zone. As the game went on we started getting a little tired, started scrambling in our zone,” said Watts.
“Every team in this league is strong, so any win goes a long way. We had two really good road games to start, we just were working on lots. Absolutely, this one feels nice. First win in the new facility, new team here – it does go a long way.”
While the team is still officially the Eckville Eagles, they’re already sporting the Lacombe Generals’ old jerseys, and the team has made application to become the Lacombe AA Generals.
“We want it known that we’re not a AAA club, we are a AA association, we are a relocation, not a new team,” said Watts. “It’s in Hockey Alberta and the North Central’s hands and we’ll respect their decision.”
Lacombe will be back in action next Saturday, Nov. 2, hosting the Devon Barons at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex at 8 p.m. On Sunday, Nove. 3 they’ll travel to the Bentley Arena to play the Blackfalds Wranglers. Puck drop is at 2:30 p.m.
For full schedule, visit http://www.northcentralhockeyleague.com.