The Lacombe Generals were thirsting for an Allan Cup Hockey West title coming into their second round matchup against their bitter rivals — the Innisfail Eagles.
The Gens came into the game also looking to keep their momentum going after clipping the wings of another team of Eagles — the Stony Plain Eagles — in their first round matchup, which they won three games to one.
The first period was exactly what you would expect from two teams known not to like each other.
After battling in the neutral zone for much of the frame, Lacombe finally broke the ice with a goal by Dylan Nowakowski that slipped under the pad of Eagle netminder Paul Boulianne. The Generals quickly tried to add to their lead when Eric Galbraith broke lose in front of the net, but Boulianne was not to be surprised twice — making an exceptional blocker save to keep the game 1-0.
The game went into the second period with the Generals maintaining their mojo on the back of goaltender Tyler Weiman making seven stops — the majority of which were of the difficult variety.
If you ignored the scoreboard in the second period, you would think that the Eagles lit up the second period but it was the Generals who would eventually add to their lead.
After killing a barrage of penalties — including an extended five on four — Eric Galbraith finally managed to break past the Eagle blue line, carrying two defenders on his back to finish off the play with a picture-perfect wrap-around that just inched over the goal line.
The Generals kept their 2-0 lead heading into final frame.
The third period was where the action was in this one.
The Eagles would continue to play a physical brand of hockey that eventually led to Chad Robinson finally managing to solve Weiman with a goal to put his team down only one. Innisfail would continue to dominate play eventually leading to an own zone turnover by Evan Oberg that led to Michael Desjarlais tying the game with seven minutes to play.
Nowakowski said his team knew the Eagles would be a battle.
“They are going to come out and try to hit us and bully us, but we are faster and stronger,” he said. “We need to get pucks in low and work their D. Their d-men are slow and it is noticeable. We have to take advantage of that.”
The Generals, however, refused to hang their head — applying pressure on the very next possession that led to Nowakowski scoring his second of the game after banging home a Doug Jessey rebound.
“I think we kept our composure,” Nowakowski said. “We may have lost track a bit at the end, but we stuck with our gameplan and came out on top.”
The Generals would go on to win Game 1 3-2, setting up a pivotal Game 2 in Lacombe on Sunday at 2 p.m. The series will then shift to Innisfail for a possible two games the following weekend.
“We are coming in tomorrow with the same effort to get the win again,” Nowakowski said.