Prior to the holiday break, team owner and defenceman Reed Watts said the AA Lacombe Generals would need to go on a run in order to have a legit shot in the NCHL playoffs.
The Gens gave themselves the best chance they could with a strong first period, but penalties would ultimately decide this one in Fort Saskatchewan’s favour, leading to a 4-3 overtime win.
“Penalties and playing undisciplined definitely cost us the game. I thought we started really well and then in the second half of the game we were really undisciplined and gave them life. That cost us in the end,” Generals Coach Jordan Koopmans said.
The Generals would score two goals in the first period, by Jared Williams and Scott Maetche respectively, but it was killing off a two-man-advantage that was the real difference in the first period.
Lacombe battened down the hatches for the majority of the kill, before Fort Sask ended the powerplay abruptly with a high-sticking penalty by Brandon Dubuc— ultimately leading to Williams powerplay goal and two-goal advantage heading into the second frame.
“It was a really fast-paced first period and we played really aggressive. I think we just stopped moving our feet and started using our stick for a lot of undisciplined penalties,” Koopmans said.
The second would also be defined by the Generals killing a Chiefs two-man-advantage, this time with goaltender Mackenzie Engel standing on his head with some spectacular saves to preserve the Lacombe lead.
The Chiefs earlier, however, did cut the lead to a goal when Brandon Dubuc made up for his earlier high-sticking penalty with a goal of his own — leading to a 2-1 Gens lead heading into the deciding period.
The third period was where the Generals composure fell apart.
Despite Scott Doucet scoring the first goal of the frame for Lacombe, the Chiefs would dominate the period starting with a 4-on-4 goal by Jamie Marshall. An unsportsmenlike penalty would then lead to the tying goal by Shamus Graham setting up 4-0n-4 overtime.
Another penalty in overtime, this one being a high-sticking minor by Dallas Smith would ultimately lead to Graham scoring his second goal of the game for the game-winner.
“I think we outplayed them five-on-five for the majority of the game. When you are playing short-handed, it is hard to get any momentum back,” Koopmans said.
Garrett Kindred stopped 26 shots for the win, moving the Chiefs into a tie for second in the NCHL standings. Mackenzie Engel, who was spectacular in the loss, stopped 37 shots and the Gens grabbed a point to give them 11 on the year with three games remaining.
Lacombe now heads out on to the road to take on Bonnyville on Jan. 11. They will then return home to take on Daysland on Jan. 17.
“We are most successful when we roll four lines and wear down teams. We have had fantastic goaltending so far and they gave us a chance to win tonight, so if they give us that chance and we stay out of the box — there is no reason we shouldn’t win,” Koopmans said.