The Lacombe Generals edged the Rosetown Redwings in the homestretch to take over sole custody of first place in the Allan Cup Hockey West (ACHW).
Despite falling to the Redwings 3-1 Saturday, a 5-3 win over the Stony Plain Eagles Friday in front of the hometown crowd at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex secured the 10-6-0-2 Generals as the top team of the regular season.
Not that it came easy against their northern Alberta rivals in a game that would become a teaser for their first round playoff series.
Eagle Jaret Smith opened the scoring just two minutes into the game. The Generals regrouped, however, and capitalized on both their powerplay opportunities with both Dylan Nowakowski and Brennen Evans scoring with the man advantage.
“I thought we did a good job keeping it simple and we got a few good breaks,” said Evans. “If everything goes as planned, we will probably match up with these guys in the first round, so it’s good to get a win tonight and put that in their head.”
Four minutes into the second, Stephen Phee scored his second goal in as many games from a sharp angle, and the 3-1 lead would stand until Ryan Benn retaliated for the Eagles with just over nine minutes left in the frame.
After the Eagles’ tempers flared late in the second, their opponents put more pressure on in the third, but it wouldn’t stop the Generals. Tanner Korchinski beat Eagle goaltender Kevin Nastiuk at 7:14 with his third of the year. In a desperate attempt to mount a late comeback, Jones was pulled for the extra attacker. Former General and current Eagle Matt Stefanishion scored with 22 seconds left, but the late pressure wouldn’t be enough to mount a comeback in the dying seconds, and Korchinski scored his fourth in the empty net.
One of the big differences in the game was Generals goaltender Tyler Weiman, who made 32 saves on the night, stoning more than a few Eagles.
“He plays the puck so well, makes a good save and his rebounds are unreal so it makes it a lot easier for the D for sure,” Evans said.
Saturday was a different tale.
With a shorter 13-man roster, coupled with the bus trip to Rosetown, Sask., the Generals were unable to muster the same effort..
They managed to keep their opponents at bay for the first two periods, allowing just a single power play goal at the start of the first. But the third period saw them fall flat – allowing two more goals and recording just one shot on net. Korchinski would score mid-period, but it wouldn’t be enough to turn momentum in their favour.
While they tied the Redwings for points in the standings, they had one less loss in regular time, narrowly deciding the seeding for playoffs.
For the first time in several seasons, the team hasn’t dominated the league, but the hope is the few extra losses and adversity have them better prepared for what’s to come in the postseason and ultimately put them in position to win the Allan Cup in front of the hometown crowd.
“It’s not what I’d call the typical Lacombe Generals year where we just blow the doors off of everybody, but with Fort Saskatchewan down there’s a lot more parity – everybody’s good and it really makes a difference,” said Evans.
“You look at the last two years – where we were in the regular season and where we ended up. Maybe finishing with one or two more losses helps us learn some lessons early and builds some character.”
The regular season now in the books, the Generals will now focus on taking down the Stony Plain Eagles in a best-of-five ACHW semifinal series.
The series will kick off on Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex. Puck drop is at 8 p.m.
Jesse Todd led the Generals in scoring throughout the regular season with 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points. Kyle Stroh was second with eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points. Ian Barteaux led defencemen with three goals and 10 assists, and Giffen Nyren followed close behind with three goals and nine assists…..Barteaux led the entire team in penalty minutes with 49 through 12 games played. Colin Valcourt came in second with 27 through seven games played….The Lacombe Generals introduced new jerseys in front of the hometown crowd. The jerseys have been in the works since September….Former Generals captain Don Morrison was in the building with his Bentley Canucks team who were playing in the novice tournament at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex. He took the team on a tour through the Generals dressing room and introduced them to the players. Morrison’s hockey career was cut short at the end of last season when he suffered a neck injury.