A new coach, a new City, a new goalie tandem and a bunch of fresh faces were on display for the Lacombe Generals during the annual Chinook Hockey League Pre Season Classic in Innisfail last week.
With the ChHL regular season slated to kick off this weekend, the defending Allan Cup champions are itching to finally hit the ice.
“It was a good evaluation for me to see where the yard stick is, so I think it was good to get the rust off,” said Generals’ Head Coach Curtis Austring of the team’s play in the annual pre-season tournament.
The Gens kicked off the weekend with a 7-2 victory over the Rosetown Red Wings before falling 4-2 to the host Innisfail Eagles in a tense nail biter of a game.
“Overall, pretty good. I think our game’s coming along,” Austring said, adding it was also good to be able to see what some of the newer players on the roster can do.
Based on what he saw over the weekend, Austring said the Chinook league is looking like it will be competitive this season.
“Both Rosetown and Innisfail look like they’ve got some pretty good squads there, some players who have played at the pro level. It’s a lot of what I’ve expected from previous seasons and I think the league’s just getting better and better. So we’re excited,” he said.
The annual icebreaker was also a good way for some of the Generals’ newer players to get a sense of just how competitive senior AAA hockey is in Alberta.
“I think it was a bit of an eye-opener for some, so we got some good insight on what to expect.”
With last year’s starting goaltender Dustin Butler still sidelined with an injury he suffered in last year’s playoffs, new goaltending duo Jacob DeSerres and former Red Deer College Kings’ goaltender Kraymer Barnstable were solid for the Gens, even though the waters got a little murky when DeSerres left Saturday’s game against Rosetown with an ankle injury.
Austring said the team is taking things one step at a time when it comes to Butler’s injury and that there is no definitive timeline on a potential return for the veteran netminder.
“We’re working with him to see kind of where he’s at, but right now Jake and Kraymer are our two guys and we’re trying to get a sense of where Jake’s ankle is at,” he said.
Outside of the crease, Austring said he’s pretty happy with where his lineup is at right now.
“Our defense was strong. We’ve got some good talent and some competitors there. I thought our goaltending was excellent and up front we’ve got some guys who are playing with some new guys to try and find some rhythm, but I thought overall the veterans did a good job.”
He did, however, note the club may be looking to add some depth at centre and potentially on the left wing in the future.
“All in all I thought it was a successful preseason. We’re not where we want to be, necessarily, right now but we’ve certainly got the foundation in place and we’ll keep building on it and carry on.”
That foundation will include a number of returning faces from last year’s memorable run to the Allan Cup, including Teegan Moore, Colton Hayes and Kyle Bailey. They’ll also get some help from a number of new faces, including former Kelowna Rockets forward Zach Franko and former Red Deer Rebel Riley Sheen.
The Gens will kick off the 2016 Chinook League season on Oct. 15th when they visit the Rosetown Red Wings. Puck drop on that one is at 8 p.m.