Bentley Generals one win from McKenzie Cup

By DANNY RODE / Red Deer Advocate

Over the last half-decade the Bentley Generals have been the premier senior AAA hockey team in the province.

This year’s edition of the Generals may be even better.

“We have even more depth,” said Generals head coach Brian Sutter following a 5-1 win over the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs at the Red Deer Arena March 16.

“We were without two of our top forwards (Sean Robertson and Kevin Smyth) and one of our best D men (Darren Deschamps), but because of our depth we can get past that. We know what we have to do and how we have to play. We know you’re not always rewarded on the scoresheet, but it’s all the other things you do that’s important.”

The win gave the Generals a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven provincial final with the fourth game set for March 18 in Fort Saskatchewan. The fifth game, if necessary goes March 23 in Red Deer, with the sixth, if needed, March 25 in Fort Saskatchewan and possibly a seventh March 27 back in Red Deer.

The ability to roll four lines and six defencemen has been a major asset for the Bentley crew in the series as they continually dominate the third period.

The Generals held a 3-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes, then put the game away on goals by Paul Cabana and Dustin Claffey 42 seconds apart midway through the frame.

“After the first period we picked it up and by the third period they had nothing left in the tank,” said Sutter. “It’s been like that in every game.”

The Generals did lead 2-0 after the opening period on goals by Claffey at 18:05 and Darryl LaPlante at 19:16, but overall Sutter felt his squad could have been even better.

“The guys have to turn their minds up. They’re like old radios you have to find out what level and what channel they’re on to get them going. It was like that tonight.”

The Chiefs made it a game when Brian Woolgar tipped in a point shot past netminder Scott Galenza at 2:10 of the second period, but Travis Brigley gave the Generals back the two goal lead at 4:27.

“That was a big goal as we came right back on them,” said Sutter, who also gave Galenza credit for an outstanding save early in the third period with the score still 3-1.

“I told him after the first period he would have to be one of our hardest working players as he won’t see a lot of pucks, but would have to come up big when needed.”

Galenza finished with 28 saves, while his mates had 47 shots on the Chiefs’ Blake Grenier, who kept the game as close as it was early on.

Overall, Sutter likes what he sees from his squad as it doesn’t appear they’re about to allow the Chiefs back in the series.

“We sat out for a couple of weeks and the guys weren’t happy sitting around,” he said. “I think we’re taking it out on them now. I know I’ll do anything to win and they will to. We’re up by three and we want to win that next one.”

Claffey was named the Generals’ top player of the game with two goals and a helper.

“He had wood shavings in his skates for a period and a half, but once he got those out and found his legs he was going,” said Sutter. “He has the ability to create things along with a guy like (Bradon) Appleby. That is a difference between this year and last year. You need those foot soldiers to win.