There’s an old saying that suggests “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” and that’s just fine for the Bentley Generals of the Chinook Hockey League who find themselves in familiar territory at the top of the standings.
Prior to this past weekend’s play, the Generals were setting the pace with 16 points based on eight wins in their first nine games of the 2009-10 season. Further, the reigning Allen Cup champions have accumulated 57 goals-for, averaging 6.3 per game; and have the stingiest defense giving up just 21 for a goals-against average of 2.3 per game.
“So far the team has looked really good. The core group was very happy to see the players that have come back from last year,” said Chad Beagle who recently returned to the lineup following a knee injury. “Any time you win a championship of that magnitude and you’ve got guys that are getting on in years, have families and work and stuff, a lot of players decide that it’s time to retire or whatever. But we couldn’t be happier with our team.”
Returning to the team following a year off was former Detroit Red Wing and Stanley Cup champion Darryl LaPlante who, according to Beagle, “is lighting up the league” and after just four games played, has already racked up seven goals and four assists, good for eighth place in league scoring.
In fact, LaPlante is one of six Generals in the top 11, joining Curtis Austring, Sean Robertson and Diarmuid Kelly who are 1-2-3 in the scoring race, along with John Hobson (10th) and Joe Vandermeer (11th).
Back on the blue line the Generals have also shored up the defense with the return of Beagle who, along with former pro Rob Chappell, join Don Morrison, Vandertmeer and Kelly as a formidable wall for opposing forwards.
And things aren’t looking too bad between the pipes either.
“Our goaltending has been very good. Scott Galenza played for us last year until the end when Cody Rudkowsky sort of took the starting job in our playoff run, but Scott’s a phenomenal goaltender,” Beagle said. “We were a bit scared that there might be some hard feelings there, but Scott has taken the attitude that he just wants to be better for this year and wants to take us to the cup again. He’s looked very good as well and is a determined man so when you’ve got a goalie like that, it makes things a lot easier.”
Under league bylaws, the team advancing from the provincial finals is allowed to select one goaltender to join their team and in the case of the Generals, that goaltender was Rudkowsky who originally played for the Stony Plain Eagles coincidentally, the team Bentley defeated to advance.
Galenza has already established himself at the league’s top goaltender with a perfect 5-0 record and a league-low 1.8 GAA. Also spending time in the crease are Jordan Alford (2-0, 2.00 GAA) and Darryl Ruff (0-1, 4.00 GAA).
Heading into the Christmas break, the Generals hosted the Lloydminster Border Kings on Dec. 12 and will finish the home portion of their schedule on Dec. 18 against the Innisfail Eagles.
The first home game of 2010 for Bentley is Jan. 2 against the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs to be played in Lacombe.
“They’re a real strong team and it looks like they definitely did some heavy recruiting this past summer,” Beagle said of the Chiefs. “They’ve got four strong lines and some great defensemen as well. I can honestly say, now that we’ve seen all the teams in the league, that every one of them has gotten a lot stronger.”