CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
The Bentley Generals have unfinished business at the Allan Cup.
The Generals lost last year in the final of the Allan Cup to the Fort St. John Flyers who were the host team but with the championship in Kenora, Ont. this year Bentley, the Alberta champions, would have to face Fort St. John, the British Columbia champions, in a five-game series to advance to the national senior championship tournament.
A hard-fought five-game series — in which the Generals found themselves down 2-1 at one point — resulted in a 3-2 series win for Bentley.
“All five games we scored the first goal so we had the lead after the first. The first periods in all five games we played really well,” said goaltender Scott Galenza, a salesman at Adams Chevrolet. “The games we won we played well all the way through, the two games we lost we had lots of power play chances but it wasn’t really clicking. You have to give credit to Fort St. John because they were battling hard — but overall, five games in five days…we got what we wanted.”
Falling behind 2-1 in the series certainly wasn’t part of the plan but Galenza believes the team understood it was going to be a battle from start to finish.
“We talked about it through it all and Brian (Sutter) said it right from the start, if it takes five games then it takes five games to win the series…They beat us in the final at the Allan Cup last year and they are defending national champs so we knew it was going to be a battle. The big thing is you have to win three games, they had won two so we had to win two in a row but we were just going to take it one game at a time,” said Galenza. “You don’t go through all year working as hard as we did and playing for what we did and committing all the time to lose like that.”
Bentley is making its fifth consecutive appearance at the Allan Cup and in that time the team has etched its name on the second-most historic hockey trophy in Canadian hockey once and twice have been defeated in the final — the Allan Cup replaced Lord Stanley’s Cup in 1909.
“We believe by defeating Fort St. John we are one of the top two teams in Canada. We feel we have a solid chance to go out there and win,” said Galenza.
He emphasized that there will be a lot of strong teams at the tournament and no game will be easy but Galenza really feels their road to the tournament will help them in the long run.
“To have two gruelling series against Stony Plain and then Fort Saskatchewan and then play five games against the defending champs, as far as confidence goes we really feel we have a chance every night as long as we stick to our game plan.”
The Generals’ experience down the stretch drive is important but the experience players have gained during their most recent trips to the Allan Cup is invaluable. The tournament is a different beast than league finals or provincial playoffs.
Six teams are broken into two divisions where they compete in a round robin format — Division 1: Bentley Generals (AB/BC), Dundas Real McCoys (ON), Kenora Thistles (Host); Division 2: Southeast Prairie Thunder (MB/SK), Fort Frances Thunderhawks (Northern ON), Clarenville Caribous (Atlantic). The top team from each division gets a bye into the semifinals while teams two and three cross over in each division to play in the quarterfinals.
It will be important for any team to lock up top spot to get a day of rest in the tournament. The fact that it is also a one and done once the championship reaches the playoffs — unlike a series where a team can make up for a bad game — means no team will be able to take a period off.
“You want to finish first in your division. If you finish second or third you play an extra game in the quarterfinals. The way the schedule sets up if we don’t finish first in our division then we are looking at another five games in five nights and that is tough. We were in that situation last year and we ran out of gas,” said Galenza. “It’s one of those things that you have to take one game at a time and start strong and not look too far ahead.”
In such a short championship, one could see how in tournament scouting could be crucial, understanding other teams’ tendencies might give you an advantage over the field but Galenza feels it is more about what the Bentley Generals do, as opposed to any of the other five teams.
“I don’t like to know too much about what other teams are doing because then you might start looking for one guy on the ice and then the other guys start beating you. We want to focus on playing the way we play. If we do what we need to do, we’ll be just fine,” said Galenza.
The Generals open the tournament against the Dundas Real McCoys on April 12 and play the following night against the host Kenora Thistles; both games are an 8 p.m. (ET) start.
You can follow the action at www.allancupkenora2011.ca and the championship game will be featured on TSN on April 16 at 3 p.m. (ET).