It’s a sweep.
The Bentley Generals finished their season’s four-game exhibition series undefeated against the Fort St. John Senior Flyers Sunday, as AAA hockey action took over North Peace Arena the weekend of Jan. 5 and 6.
On Saturday the Flyers gave a big crowd of 650 fans something to watch. After 40 minutes of penalty trouble, the Flyers came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game late in the third period with goals from Rick Cleaver and Mike Lalonde, getting their fans back into the game.
Unfortunately it was penalty trouble again that dashed the Flyers’ hopes for a win in the end, as Bentley’s Joe Vandemeer snapped one past goalie Troy Hunt on the power play with only 2:36 left to go, winning it 3-2 for the Generals.
“We came up short by one, what can you say?” said Flyers’ coach Darrel Leahy.
“I was hoping for a great showing from Hunt and we got a great performance from him. Three goals in 43 shots, he was stellar. Other than that we got better as the game went on last night, and we were as good or better than them in the second half. [We had a] slow start, we took some penalties early and took our momentum that we were looking for away in the first, and we got better after that.”
The Generals had previously defeated the Flyers in Bentley in early November in both exhibition games, and although Saturday’s game was edging on redemption for the Flyers, the Fort St. John squad hoped they could squash Bentley’s sweep on Sunday, but that wasn’t in the cards.
Despite a strong start out of the gate after Gary Alexander and Bob Trobak were honoured with Diamond Jubilee medals, the Flyers found themselves down 3-0 (two on the power play) with only nine minutes left in the first period. After 20 minutes the Flyers had been outshot 17-8 and sent to the penalty box three times.
“We hoped for a closer game but again we got down early after a rash of penalties. We got absolutely screwed in that department,” Leahy said, unable to hide his frustration. “Anybody in the rink could see it was a terrible performance by the stripes. They’re not used to the system, so give them a little leeway there.”
“Obviously we need to play tougher from the start, from the drop of the puck, and we never did get to roll four lines like we like to do, dump it in and make contact. Penalty, penalty, penalty,” he added.
Three minutes into the second the Flyers were down another two goals, with the score of 5-0 glowering at them from the clock.
Five minutes later “import” Brad Fast broke the Generals’ hope for a shutout with a power play goal from Gerard DiCaire, and only two minutes later the team killed a lengthy five-on-three, as Aaron Schepers, Bryan Lewis and Fast helped out goalie Hunt to keep the Generals’ arsenal at bay.
The third period on Sunday saw three ugly headshots in the first five minutes of the third as play began to get physical and the Flyers turned up their hits. Penalties resumed for the Flyers (some unfairly) and fans were heard yelling, “Stay out of the box!”
With four minutes to go in the game the Flyers took advantage of their own five-on-three. Lalonde blasted one in to make the score 5-2 and despite the score, the Flyers’ new life kept over 500 fans in their seats until the buzzer rang to end the game.
“[Saturday] night we put in a real good comeback effort and fell short, but I liked the effort a little more than [Sunday],” Leahy said, “But the boys sucked it up and their pride showed in the end. They came out hard in the third and that’s a sign of good character and good dressing-room character.”
“Hearing what [the players] had to say to each other after the game, there were some positives there, some real positives. We know what we need to do to get better and we’ll take it from there.”
Bentley will be hosting the 2013 Allan Cup, the prized trophy won by the Flyers back in 2010.
“They have a hell of a squad,” Leahy said about Bentley,“ It was great to gauge ourselves again.”
Before the Flyers can head back down to Bentley for the Allan Cup, they have the Savage Cup to deal with, which they are hosting this March.
The Flyers’ next game is Jan. 11 versus the Dawson Creek Senior Canucks at North Peace Arena.