BY ZACHARY CORMIER
New Lacombe Generals head coach Curtis Austring is itching to get the 2016-17 Chinook Hockey League season underway.
After having an opportunity to see his team in action during a trio of pre-season matchups, Austring said the defending Allan Cup champions are getting in game shape as they prepare for their season to get underway on Oct. 15th.
“In my view we’ve had a successful pre-season, so most of it is just involved in getting reps in game action. Certainly, playing college-level teams, they’ve been practicing for a while and have full rosters and all of that sort of stuff. They’re youthful teams more or less. So it got our guys back into game action sooner than later, so that’s always helpful,” said Austring of the Army’s first three pre-season games, all of which were against teams from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
In terms of success, the Generals have had a pretty strong showing.
They posted a 2-1 record over the course of the three games including a 6-3 win over the SAIT Trojans and a 3-0 loss to the defending ACAC champion NAIT Ooks at the SAIT Eyeopener tournament last week and a 5-3 win over the U of A- Augustana Vikings in Stettler on Saturday.
Austring said the games have provided good measuring sticks for his squad.
“I think all in all it was successful,” he said, adding that the team as a whole is looking like a contender.
“We’ve got an excellent group of guys. I think at the competitive level, everyone competes and wants to win. You’ve got to want to be here and you’ve got to want to put the effort in to be successful. There’s a lot of talent on our team. I think our defense will be strong again this year, I think our forward group will be excellent as well. So I don’t have any kind of real concerns there or anything.”
On paper, the Generals are looking like they could once again be the team to beat in the Chinook League.
Notable returnees include goaltender Dustin Butler, who was excellent in last year’s ChHL playoffs, defencemen Don Morrison and Colton Hayes and forwards Alex Macleod, Scott Doucet, Kyle Bailey, Teegan Moore, Brett Robertson and Kyle Sheen just to name a few.
They’ll be joined by a depth of newcomers, many of whom come from professional, Major Junior or college hockey backgrounds.
In fact, three of those newcomers — Riley Sheen, Brandon Magee and Zach Franko — were among the Gen’s leading scorers in their tune up games with two goals apiece.
Austring said the team will be working hard as they prepare to open the season on the road in October.
It will be a gruelling travel schedule to start the season as, due to the ongoing renovations at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex, the Gens won’t play their first game at home until Dec. 9th.
“For me I think it’s a great opportunity with a bunch of new players coming in to spend a bunch of concentrated time together, especially that first weekend. It’s a good way to get on a bus, socialize and get to know each other,” Austring said.
He added that sometimes playing on the road can allow a team to focus on hockey more than anything else.
“When you’re playing at home sometimes you have a tendency maybe to play a little bit different whereas on the road you generally just keep it a little more simple.”
The Lacombe Generals are back in action on Oct. 1st when they take part in the ChHL pre-season tournament in Innisfail.