By Zachary Cormier
The Bentley Generals find themselves in an unfamiliar situation after Sunday night’s loss to the Innisfail Eagles.
The first place Generals, who are currently embroiled in a Chinook Hockey League semi-final playoff series with the fourth place Eagles, are just a single loss away from being eliminated from the playoffs after a 3-2 overtime loss at the Barnett Arenas in Lacombe on Sunday.
“This is some adversity maybe we haven’t faced and that’s a good thing,” said Generals Head Coach Ryan Tobler after the loss, which put Bentley at a 3-2 deficit heading back to Innisfail for game six in the best of seven series.
“We’re up against it. We’re going to find out what we’re made of, plain and simple.”
Despite the loss, Sunday’s game was one of those that could have gone either way.
Both teams were in it until the final whistle as they did battle in front of the more than 1,200 people who had packed into the arena to watch some Senior Men’s AAA playoff action.
“We had our chances,” Tobler said.
Right from the get go the teams were trading chances. Bentley had several good looks on Eagles’ goalie Dan Dunn through the first five minutes of play before Innisfail took the fight back to them and fired a couple of shots on Army netminder Dustin Butler.
It took until the 15 minute mark of the first period for the first goal to be put up on the board. After a Brett Robertson high-sticking penalty put the Generals down a man, Innisfail’s Mark Bomersback took advantage, beating Butler to put his team up 1-0 heading into the second.
Things didn’t start getting better for the Gens early in the second either, as Dunn continued to stump their potent offense by making save after save and Innisfail’s defense kept getting in front of the Bentley shooters to limit their offense.
To make matters worse, Innisfail picked up a second unanswered goal four minutes into the middle frame on a quick transition.
That seemed to be the wake-up call that Bentley needed. They doubled their attack and started firing shot after shot at the Innisfail net and while most ended up deflecting off the defenders and into the netting, some managed to find the mark.
Still though, it wasn’t until the dying seconds of the period that the Army was able to break through as one of those shots at the net finally paid off.
A shot on goal by Teegan Moore led to a rebound and scramble in front of the Eagles’ net. Adam Huxley took a shot, which was stopped by Dunn, but Ian Schultz was right there to pound the rebound home and cut the Eagles’ lead to one heading into the third.
And they weren’t done. The third period saw the combatants trade chances again. Butler and Dunn were locked in a goalie battle for the ages and the shooters were finding it difficult to get a good chance against them.
But eventually something had to give and, 13 minutes into the third, something finally did as, with Bentley on the power play, Moore got hold of the puck in the offensive zone and dished it to defenseman Colton Hayes. Hayes wound up and ripped a shot that deflected off of Schultz’s stick and past Dunn for the tying goal. We were going to overtime.
“We did well to come back and get the power play tier,” said Tobler.
The extra frame didn’t take long, though. Just four minutes in, a shot on goal by the Generals allowed Innisfail to take possession of the puck deep in their defensive zone. Two seconds later, a long, outlet pass by Eagles’ defender Jason Nopper found Bomersback at centre ice and sent him barrelling down on Bulter on the breakaway, and the Innisfail veteran didn’t waste it as he put it top shelf for the victory.
“The difference was key saves here and there, that’s usually the difference,” Tobler said, adding he was happy with the team’s effort in the game.
“Sometimes you play a good hockey game and you lose. I’m happy with our effort, of course not the result, but we’ll learn from it.”
The Gens will now shift their focus to Saturday’s upcoming matchup in Innisfail, which because of the loss is now a must-win game.
It’s worth noting that neither team has won a game at home yet during this series.
Game six gets underway at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Innisfail Twin Arena. Should the Generals win that game, the deciding matchup will be held at the Barnett Arenas on Sunday. Puck drop on that one is at 7:15 p.m.