BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Lacombe Generals secured a win this weekend in their home arena as they took the Innisfail Eagles out of the sky with a 5-4 game.
Head Coach Curtis Austring said the team played a smart game, although the Eagles worked hard to stay on par.
“On Saturday, we were prepared for a hard-nosed battle,” Austring said. “The dynamic of the game changed a little bit in the first minute where we had one of our players get hit. He ended up having to leave the game due to injury, and that resulted in a five-minute power play so that was a bit of an unusual spark to the game.
“It kind of changed a bit of the emotional pitch of the game because we were worried about our player’s injury, but we focused and got that power play goal at the start.”
The Gens’ first goal of the night came thanks to Brandon Magee, assisted by Teegan Moore and Riley Sheen. Not five minutes later, Jesse Todd drove the puck in with assistance from Evan Oberg and Ryan Kinasewich to bring the Gens up 2-0.
The Eagles put in some work through Sam Lawson (from Daniel Nicholes and Caylen Wells), scoring their first goal of the game. The teams continued to push against each other for the remainder of the period.
Austring said the team worked hard to maintain their lead against the Eagles, who worked equally as hard to block the opportunities for the Gens.
“We started to exert ourselves more physically in the second period, and the Eagles were taking it to us in our zone for quite some time. We just pushed back and engaged physically and brought ourselves a turnover with another goal, so I think we did a good job there,” he said.
Tension was amplified in the third period of the game with Generals forward Kinasewich scoring a goal of his own, with Oberg and Brennan Evans helping to move the puck into Eagles’ territory.
The Eagles, not quite ready to give up, pushed back with a force as they scored not one, not two, but three goals in the third period in a matter of minutes. Matt Bellerieve drove in the team’s second goal of the night, from Pete Vandermeer and Jason Nopper.
Penalties ramped up in the third period from both benches, but the Eagles used this time to their advantage, scoring two power-play goals by Ty Clay and Caylen Wells, respectively, bringing the game to a tie of 4-4.
“We had some penalty trouble at the end and some calls which we shouldn’t have. It put us in some tough five-on-threes in the last few minutes but we scored to tie it up,” Austring said.
The Gens ultimately walked away with their 5-4 win added to the record, ending the game on a high note.
“I think we had good resolve with the guys, and the confidence level on the bench was pretty high. Even going into overtime, I thought the guys were prepared to win. We ultimately got a big goal from Teegan Moore, our OT winner,” Austring said, adding the group’s competitive edge helped to carry them through the game and into that overtime win.
“The group we have is a competitive group and we all want to be successful,” he said.
He said the guys have been putting in work off the ice in order to drive the team forward during the weekend games.
“At the end of the day, though, it really comes down to our team’s competitiveness and the drive these guys have to succeed,” Austring said.
“We work on the structure of the game a bit, but a lot of these guys have played really good hockey throughout their careers so they really know how to make themselves be effective.”
Austring said the team is lucky to have such experienced players that continue to cement the team as a strong force in the Chinook Hockey League.
He added that thanks to the high-energy and skill of other teams in the league, the Gens have something to strive for and are encouraged to continue to work hard.
“It’s a great league, talented all the way through. The guys who come from pro-level or major juniors or the like, they realize pretty quickly this isn’t beer-league hockey. It’s very competitive and I think that amps up the emotional level and the enjoyment for the guys,” he said.
“The guys make sure to take the steps to be prepared off the ice so they’re sharp on the weekend and can be successful in our games.”
Austring noted the team is looking forward to the upcoming weekend games, seeking redemption against the Rosetown Redwings, who took the Gens down with a 6-1 win earlier this month.
“We’re heading into the home stretch here for playoffs and I think we’re all excited about getting to those elimination games so this weekend is definitely something we’re looking forward to.”