In a four game sweep that ended with a 6-5 overtime victory on March 21, the Bentley Generals have defeated the Innisfail Eagles to seize the Chinook Hockey League and Provincial AAA Championships.
Coach Ryan Tobler said that while the Generals boasted an impressive record this season, none of their wins have come easily and two of the wins in the championship series were won by small margins in overtime.
“We were tested, every step of the way, especially in that Innisfail series,” said Tobler. “It was an up and down series and to me, the score of the series doesn’t show what a great series it really was.”
General Manager Jeff McInnis agreed.
“It was not an easy season to get that provincial win,” said McInnis. “You might argue that with our record it might have been easy, but I didn’t find it easy. There were a lot of wins but a lot of close wins.”
As the series was so tight, Tobler said he and the players felt an overwhelming sense of relief when the final goal was scored Friday night in Innisfail.
“We didn’t want to play those guys any more than we had to,” said Tobler. “They were a tough team to play against. They are physical and they make you earn it.”
At one point in the game, the Eagles were up two points on the Generals.
While the Generals could afford to lose a game, being up three in the series, that was not an option anyone wanted to take and instead of laying off the team pushed harder to come back.
“There was no let up and that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Tobler. “We could of just folded it in and taken our chances at home for game five but I wouldn’t accept that and neither would the guys. We don’t like losing.”
Aside from a brief losing streak around Christmas, the Generals have been hot all season.
Tobler said that the team became much stronger after that hiccup and has pushed hard since then. He said that, while some teams might be tempted to ease off after winning such an emotional series, that will not be the case with the Gens.
Now, the Generals prepare to face off against British Columbia’s Powell River Regals in a best of five battle for the McKenzie Cup. Winner of the McKenzie Cup will head to Ontario for a chance at the Allan Cup.
“I think the guys recognize the opportunity that is in front of us,” said Tobler. “Three more W’s and we get a chance to do something that’s not done very often in sports.”
Tobler said the Generals don’t know about their opponents from Powell River.
However, they do know that the Regals’ general manager has an impressive record.
“We know that their GM has a wealth of experience, he has three Allan Cups, he knows what it takes to win.” said Tobler. “I expect that they’re going to be good. I just think with the experience their management has that they’ll be tough competitors because they know what it takes to win.”
The Bentley Generals best of five series against the Power River Regals for the McKenzie Cup begins 7:30 p.m. April 3 in Red Deer.