GOAL - From left

Strong showing for Generals in home opener

It’s been a long off season, but the Bentley Generals don’t seem to have noticed.

The Senior Men’s AAA hockey club played their first home game of the season at the Bentley Arena on Saturday night, coming away with a 6-2 victory over the visiting Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs.

“I thought we played a full 60 minute game tonight,” said Head Coach Ryan Tobin after the game.

The Generals went into the game with a 1-0-1 record following a tough shootout loss to the Innisfail Eagles on Friday night.

“We weren’t happy with our game last night so as a coach you always look for a response,” Tobin said, adding that his team responded well during Saturday night’s game, especially after the Chiefs jumped to an early 1-0 lead just three minutes into the first period.

“I don’t think it’s so much we started slow. It was a great bench all night. We stuck with it and the key to the weekend was the way that we responded to things.”

And boy did the Generals respond, as 10 different players contributed with at least one point.

Cody Esposito got the scoring started for the Generals with nine minutes left in the opening frame to tie the game at one.

From there it was all Bentley. The Generals added another tally five minutes later to take a 2-1 lead, which they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.

The Generals were very strong in the offensive zone, peppering Fort Saskatchewan goalie Tanner Schalin with as many shots as they could.

By the end of the first period, they had put 16 pucks on target. At the end of the second, that number stood at 42.

Unfortunately for the Generals, Schalin was lights out, especially in the second period when he turned aside all but one of the 26 shots he faced. The only one that managed to get by him was a Josh Smith one-timer that was so hard it probably could have gotten past anyone without superhuman reflexes.

Despite Schalin’s performance, the Generals wouldn’t quit. They put 57 shots towards the goal in the game.

“A little more traffic, a little more determined effort to get pucks there,” Tobin said.

But the most important thing was the Generals found ways to score. They scored goals on one-timers, breakaways, rebounds and on the PP.

It was Esposito, who many consider the team’s enforcer, that opened the scoring for them in their first home ice appearance of the season.

And Esposito’s name appeared on the score sheet again on Teegan Moore’s third period beauty when Moore picked up a pass in the neutral zone from Scott Doucet, who had just received it from Esposito, and took off past the Fort Saskatchewan defenders on a breakaway. Moore barreled into the offensive zone, made a quick move on Schalin, and popped between the goalie’s pad and blocker for the score.

And that effort resulted in a game where the Generals scored six goals on a goalie who managed to post a .950 save percentage, an impressive feat to be sure.

They were passing well and playing physical. They never took their foot off the gas.

Bentley was no slouch on defence or special teams either.

The defensive core allowed only 32 shots against and goaltender Thomas Heemskirk was solid, posting a .938 save percentage to earn the victory.

Their power play units capitalized on the opportunities they were given and went 1/2 on the evening.

Even the penalty kill was firing on all cylinders. The Army’s PK didn’t allow a single goal on six outings, and on a few of the earlier ones they probably took more shots than they allowed.

Overall, Bentley looked like a team that can compete for the Allan Cup. They responded well when they went down early and they kept possession of the puck throughout the majority of the game, both of which are key components to a potential championship team.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com