If the Lacombe Generals wanted to prove they are without a doubt the top Senior AAA hockey team in Alberta, they certainly did that on Saturday night.
After splitting the first four games of their best of seven Alberta provincial championship series against the Stony Plain Eagles, the defending Allan Cup champions rolled to their eighth straight Chinook Hockey League title with back to back victories this past weekend.
“I think the score was likely not indicative of the closeness of the game. We kind of scored on our opportunities and put some distance between us and them and then I think the fifth goal was kind of a heart breaker for them. Once we got that one it didn’t seem like they had a lot of fight left and it was just really a matter of time,” said Generals’ Head Coach Curtis Austring after his team’s 10-3 road victory over the Eagles in Game 6 on Saturday night, which allowed the Generals to win the series 4-2.
Ryan Smyth’s return to the Stony Plain lineup wasn’t enough to slow down the Generals, who put on a dominating performance in the series deciding game.
Dennis Rix led the way for the visiting team’s offence with a hat trick. Myles Bell and Eric Schneider each added a pair of goals to help lead their team to the win.
In net, starting goaltender Kraymer Barnstable made saves on the way to the win.
The road victory came on the heels of a huge 5-1 win in Game 5 of the series at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe on Friday night, which allowed the team to take a 3-2 series lead heading into Stony Plain the following night.
“You’re always trying to win a series when you can. It’s important for our team. I think we learned a lot of good lessons here this series on how we have to play and what we have each and every game and each and every shift, so I think it was good for us to go through the ups and downs of the series here,” Austring said.
With the wins the Generals are moving on to the Allan Cup tournament in Bouchetouche, New Brunswick as the pacific representatives for the eighth year in a row and are looking to defend the national championship they fought so hard for a year ago.
Austring said it was good to see his team pull through and make their way back to the tournament they had so much success in a year ago.
“We’re excited. It was a good, hard-fought series so we’re excited to be moving on. This is what the guys have been working for,” said the first year coach, adding that now the team’s focus will turn towards defending their national title against some of the best Senior AAA hockey teams in the country.
“When you’re at a tournament like that everyone’s excited, everyone’s ready to go, everyone’s amped up. The really good teams that I think can focus on doing the little things right and executing the little details of the game consistently throughout the games. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Hockey’s hockey.”
He noted that because of the short tournament format of the Allan Cup, his team will have to be on their toes if they want to become the first team since the 1995-1996 Warroad Lakers to win back to back Allan Cup championships.
“In a tournament format you really have one game showdowns and you have to produce in one game showdowns.”
The Lacombe Generals will open the 2017 Allan Cup tournament on April 11th against the host Bouchetouche Dodge Ram JCs. They will then take on the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts in their second round robin game of the tournament on April 12th.