The Bentley Generals have continued their winning ways so far this season.
The Generals are currently sitting atop the Chinook Hockey League standings with a 6-0-1 record thanks in part to the strength of their goaltending.
“Our goal tending has been a strength since the start of the season, even going back to the pre-season,” said Coach Ryan Tobler.
Thomas Heemskirk and Dustin Butler have been outstanding through the first seven games of the season. The tandem has combined for 215 saves on 227 shots thus for a combined save percentage of .947 to set them firmly atop the league’s goaltender leaderboard for goalies who have played more than two games.
“They give us a chance every night and that’s all you can ask for from a goalie. They seem to have some nice chemistry and push each other in a good way and that’s great for our hockey club,” Tobler said.
On Saturday night, Heemskirk became the first goalie in the league to record a shut out this season during the club’s 4-0 win over the Innisfail Eagles at the Bentley Arena.
It was a tough, hard-fought game that saw the Generals surge out of the gates for the first period to score two goals in the first 10 minutes of regulation, thanks to a quick marker by Mike Kneeland and a power play goal by Colten Hayes.
The Generals followed that up with another pair of goals in the second period off the sticks of Jesse Todd and Chance Lund. Kneeland had an assist on the Lund goal to give him two points on the evening.
Heemskirk was completely untouchable throughout the rest of the game, especially in the third period when Innisfail’s offence threw a total of 10 shots his way while his own team managed only two.
They managed to hold on to their lead through the entire third period and managed to win the game 4-0 despite being out shot 30-28 in the game.
“I felt it was a good 60 minute effort. (The Eagles) had a good lineup and we played tight, limited their chances and were disciplined in our systems. I thought we played a good hockey game,” Tobler said after the game.
The Generals, however, did let the Eagles put a total of 30 shots towards their goal, despite allowing just eight chances in the first period.
That defensive consistency, Tobler said, is something the team is really going to focus on throughout the rest of the season.
“We’ve struggled with consistency at times, you know. I’m happy with the record but we still need to clean some things up,” Tobler said.
“We’ve got time to take care of the puck in key situations and play the time and the score and that kind of thing.”
But, according to the coach, those are normal growing pains for the beginning of a new season.
“When you get new guys and you try to get everybody to buy in and get on the same page you go through those growing pains so you hope to kind of go through and fine tune them now and prep them for bigger games,” Tobler said.
In addition to the team’s excellent goaltending, they’ve also benefited from some good offensive support.
They are tied with the Stony Plain Eagles (5-2-1) for the most goals for in the CHL at 38 and easily have the highest goal differential at +25. The next highest goal differential in the league is the Eagles at +6.
Bentley also benefits from having three of the top 10 scorers in the league on their roster in Teegan Moore, who is in third place with 12 points, Colten Hayes, sixth with 10 points, and Scott Doucet, eighth place with nine.
Now, as we near the Christmas break, Tobler said his expectation of the team is two-fold.
“I expect us to get better and keep working. There are four teams and you play each team six times so it’s tough, you know, there’s some good rivalries being built. I think the teams are better this year, especially Stony Plain with what they did adding players and stuff. I just expect us to get better as we go, keep working on things and get ready for the second half push here,” he said.
The Generals are in action again this Saturday night when they head out on the road to take on the Ft. Saskatchewan Chiefs. They won’t be back at home until Dec. 9th when they take on the Innisfail Eagles for a bit of Wednesday night action in Lacombe.