The Lacombe Generals won the second battle of the year against the Stony Plain Eagles in a game that saw “The Army” get a bit of revenge for their 4-3 overtime loss a week before.
The Generals routed the Eagles 6-2 in front of the home crowd at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex Friday night, putting them one point back of first place in Allan Cup Hockey West (ACHW) standings by the weekend’s end.
While the team once again was playing with a short bench, Generals Head Coach Sean Robertson said the silver lining was that it forced them to stick to simple hockey, which was ultimately the difference from last week’s game.
“It was important for us,” he said. “We were short staffed again, but….. I find when we’re short like this and we play simple, we have the puck a lot more. We’re less fancy and a lot more meat and potatoes.”
Playing simple paid off for the Generals towards the end of the opening period, after about 15 solid minutes of controlling possession. Keegan Iverson found the mesh through a screen with 6:42 left to play, and not to be outdone, Dylan Nowakowski, who leads the team in goals, scored his fourth of the year about a minute later.
The Eagles’ Zack McArthur then got nailed for tripping in the final minutes of the frame, and the Generals’ special teams capitalized, with Colin Valcourt giving the team a 3-0 lead going into the second period.
It wouldn’t be a lead the Eagles would respond to in the second, as the Generals once again managed the ice, stripping the Eagles of pucks, intercepting their passes, and keeping them well to the outside when their opponents finally did break into the offensive zone. Six minutes into the period, Tanner Korchinksi scored unassisted, followed by Nowakowski’s second three minutes later – a tip from Billy Marshall and Doug Jessey.
On a fluke play shortly after, however, Marshall got tangled up in the offensive zone and went into the boards. While he skated off the ice on his own, he was taken to hospital after experiencing numbness.
“It’s what happens when you’re short-staffed. He’s playing in a position he’s not used to playing and those are the things we worry about,” said Robertson.
Combined with the loss of Marshall, and the continued short bench, the Eagles tried to mount a comeback with Travis McEvoy and Brendan Baumgartner tallying goals, but the Generals marched further ahead after the Eagles pulled their goaltender, and Jesse Todd secured a 6-2 victory with an empty-net goal.
Nowakowski, who scored twice, said the team’s puck management was better this week.
“It’s always easier playing at home, so the home ice advantage helped,” he said. “Last week we played too much run and gun. This week we controlled it lower and made their d-men move more and got them out of position. I think we capitalized on those.”
He admitted, however, that playing nearly every second shift wasn’t easy.
As much as it’s the nature of senior hockey this time of year – harvest season and work keeping players from committing to every game – it can make it hard for teams to develop early in the season and gauge where they’re really at.
“Guys are going every second shift and they’ve done it two weeks in a row. I’m extremely proud that that’s the character those guys have. They’re excellent teammates and they battle hard for each other,” Robertson said.
“There’s hockey gods – when you get away with playing a game with 12 guys and you’re on the right end of the score and control the play, it’s misleading. We know that’s not the hockey we’re going to end up playing down the stretch.”
Moving forward, he said while the team has been “high octane” in the past, they need to learn to be good away from the puck, including becoming stingier on the defensive side.
Their next chance to put that into practice will come this Saturday, Oct. 27 as they take on the Innisfail Eagles. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex.