CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
The Bentley Generals didn’t play their hearts out all year to lose their final game of the season but unfortunately that’s exactly what happened.
After being down 2-1 in the McKenzie Cup to the Fort St. John Flyers the Generals grit their teeth, played with their hearts on their sleeves and won the next two games to qualify for the Allan Cup for the fifth year in a row.
The Generals carried that momentum into the Canadian Senior AAA Hockey Championships in Kenora, Ont where they rattled off two round-robin wins to claim top spot in their division and receive a bye to the semifinals — a 4-3 win over the Dundas Real McCoys from Ontario and a 3-2 win over the host Kenora Thistles from Ontario.
In the semi, the Generals made quick work of the Fort Frances Thunderhawks winning 7-2. Bentley jumped on the Thunderhawks early scoring the game’s first three goals en route to Saturday’s final.
The win meant a quick turnaround for the Generals who played at 8 p.m. in the semifinals and would have to prepare for the Clarenville Caribous the following day at 3 p.m. The timing edge would have to go to Clarenville who played their semifinal game earlier in the day — a 4-1 final over Dundas.
“It was a quick turnaround but I think it was a good thing because guys were getting sick of sitting around waiting. It might have gotten us out of our routine but I don’t think it was a factor at all,” said goaltender Scott Galenza.
In the final, a game that was broadcast on TSN, the Generals got off to Generals fall short of ultimate goal – season still a success about as bad a start as a team could. Bentley took three minor penalties in the first ten minutes of the opening frame and full marks to Clarenville, who capitalized on all three to storm out to a 3-0 lead. Clarnenville finished the tournament first in powerplay success clicking on 27.3 per cent of their chances.
Bentley responded before the period was out off the stick of Joe Vandermeer to make the score 3-1 after 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t the kind of start we were looking for by any means. They took advantage on the powerplay but we knew there was a lot of game left and we knew we had to come out and get back to how we play to get ourselves back into it,” said Galenza.
In the second, Bentley again gave up the first goal before responding with two of their own to cut the deficit to one, 4-3. The goals came from Curtis Austring and Don Morrison on the powerplay. Bentley out-shot the Caribous 25-8 in the middle stanza.
“We knew there was lots of game left and our mindset was to go out there and win a period and if we did that we had a chance in the third. We put more pressure on them,” said Galenza. “We went back to our game plan and what works for us and it showed on the scoreboard.”
In the third, both teams tightened up on defense. Bentley could only muster seven shots in the final 20 as Clarenville shut the door, potting some insurance into an empty net to win the Allan Cup 5-3.
“We took control the last two periods but the start hurt us.”
In the end it may have been an Alberta boy who kept the Generals from claiming their second Allan Cup.
Jordan Ramstead, who played for Grande Prairie in the Alberta Junior Hockey League and hails from Eckville, stopped 39 of a possible 42 shots to secure the victory for the east coast team.
The Generals may have come up a bit short in their pursuit of another Allan Cup but it is a testament to the team and organization that every year the goal is to win a national championship.
“It’s a bunch of guys who have a goal in mind and our goal is to win our last game of the year and if we do that we end up with a championship. To fall short a couple years in a row is a little disappointing but when you look at the big picture and realize we only lost four games all year, it’s pretty special and something to be proud of,” said Galenza.
The team has come together to compete for national championships year after year but the community and for that matter Alberta has really come together to support their senior team heroes.
“The fans of the Bentley Generals are incredible. That’s pretty special in itself and to know the final game is being broadcast for friends, family and other people following the team was pretty special,” said Galenza.
Ron McLean referred to the team as a “dynasty” on Hockey Night in Canada and Galenza admitted there is great pride in wearing the Bentley “G” on the front of the jersey.
“It’s an overall great organization,” said Galenza.
“Everybody has pride to be a part of the Generals and it is a pretty special feeling to say that you are a General and put on that jersey. You know when the season starts everyone of the guys will do, whether it be a player, coach, trainer or management, whatever they possibly can to get where we want to be which is to ultimately win the Allan Cup again. It’s a tremendous group of people.”