The Lacombe Generals won’t be relinquishing their league crown this year.
The Army marched to a 7-4 victory and 3-0 Allan Cup Hockey West finals sweep over the Innisfail Eagles Saturday on the road, laying claim to their 11th straight league title.
Resiliency and leadership, according to Head Coach Sean Robertson, were key in the win.
“I thought we played well. That team forces you to get uncomfortable and get away from your game, but we kept getting back to it,” he said. “A lot of it on our leaders. They know what to expect and they did a great job making sure we were on an even keel – we’d rather play our game than Innisfail’s.”
The Generals certainly started on the right foot, with Kyle Ross scoring just 29 seconds into the game to put the team up 1-0. While they edged their opponents in possession, the Eagles’ Joe Vandermeer tied the game with 3:18 left in the frame.
It was in the second period when animosity between the two teams began to flare, with the Eagles’ season on the line and the Generals determined to complete the sweep. Three minutes in, Generals goaltender Mike Salmon was called for what those standing by the boards would say was a phantom high-stick against Vandermeer, and Colton Hayes would give the Eagles their first and only lead of the game on the ensuing power play. The Generals were also called for too many men, but not to be deterred, Kyle Stroh would display some solid second effort, tying the game. Billy Marshall, who scored the game-winner in Game 2, would get the go-ahead goal with 39 seconds left.
The third period saw the Generals take control of the game. Levi Nelson struck twice early in the frame, including with what would be the game winner. Evan Oberg would add another on the power play with 6:44 left, and for good measure Marshall would score his second of the game with the man advantage.
Ty Clay would narrow the gap with a goal with just over a minute left in the game, and a second with 13 seconds left, but the game would be too far out of the Eagles to come back.
Salmon would make 28 saves in the win.
“We had a lot of resolve, resiliency,” said Robertson. “Nothing seemed to phase us. When it looked like we were getting wound up, the boys would calm themselves down and we’d get back to doing things that we’re good at and make us successful.
“There was a buy in. Nobody wants to let anyone down in that room, and as a coach, you can’t ask for more.”
With the league championship settled, the Innisfail Eagles and Stony Plain Eagles will face off in a best-of-seven battle of the birds in provincial semifinals. The winner of that series will then play the Generals for the provincial title towards the end of March. With the Generals already secured a spot at the Allan Cup as the host team, whoever they face will also book their ticket to the Allan Cup.
When asked what the team needs to do to prepare, Robertson says “everything.”
“We’ve got to work on fitness, and systems…It’s tough when everyone’s not around all the time, but we’re going to make sure we’re prepared.”