The lead up to the 2019 Allan Cup Final between the Innisfail Eagles and the Lacombe Generals was almost like a story book according to Generals Captain Brennen Evans.
The game itself turned out to be a page-turner as well, with the well-seasoned rivals, that are only 60 km apart, both looking to win seniors hockey’s top prize in dramatic fashion.
The story would ultimately climax with the dreams of the Lacombe Generals coming true — winning 5-2 and hoisting the Allan Cup for the community of Lacombe.
“They didn’t make it easy on us and we knew they wouldn’t,” Generals Captain Brennan Evans said. “We put in the work all year. We had the same guys at practices, coming in from Calgary every time. It is pretty special to be able to do this.
“I think it is something people will remember for a real long time.”
The first period began with both teams hearing it from the sold-out crowd at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe.
While Innisfail fans were in the minority, their boisterous efforts helped propel a first period rush that eventually lead to forward Justin Cox cashing in the first goal of the game for the Eagles.
Despite the setback, the Generals refused to hang their heads – riding an 18-8 first period shooting advantage that resulted in Chase Norrish finding some open net, beating Eagles netminder Allen York to tie the game.
The period would end all square, with both teams able to find positives with their level of championship play.
The second period appeared to be a double-time Lacombe Generals March to hoisting the Allan Cup, but a late Eagles goal continued to make the game interesting.
Jesse Todd and Dylan Nowakowski would both score for Lacombe to put them up 3-1.
“Having five games in six nights like they had takes it’s toll on the body,” Evans said. “These guys are not professional athletes and have to go to work on Monday. You could see they got a little tired, especially in the third and we had a little more legs which I think it came down to.”
It would, however, be Cox’s second goal of the game for the Eagles with 58 seconds remaining that kept the Generals lead at only 3-2 heading into the final, deciding frame.
“They have been a hell of a team all season long,” Todd said. “They have given us games. They have beat us and this one could have went either way.”
I would be the Generals who would hold on in the third period, adding empty-net goals by Cody Cartier and Todd’s second of the game to bring the Allan Cup tournament to a close with a 5-2 win.
“It is pretty amazing,” D-man Ian Barteaux said about the win. “The only thing I can compare it to is winning the championship with the Golden Bears. This is the same kind of feeling.”
Tyler Weiman finished with 26 saves on the night for Lacombe, while Allen York finished off his tournament with 37 saves for the Eagles.
“We have been chasing this for three years since the last one in 2016. I am happy to finally be able to do it,” Todd said.
Generals Coach Sean Robertson said winning his first Allan Cup as a coach after winning three as a player with the Generals is a bit different.
“I feel like these guys are all my kids. To see them this happy makes you want to do it all again. I am proud of this group and the way they came together this week,” he said.
Robertson said the journey of this season makes this Allan Cup that much sweeter.
“It is a giant puzzle and when you start clicking pieces together, you start getting excited,” he said. “When you get the last piece in the Allan Cup — that is a goal and when you set out to accomplish goals and when you accomplish those goals, it is a great feeling.”
Eagles Coach Brian Sutter said his team, despite the loss, had guys that went to war and a couple mistakes were a big part of the eventual outcome.
“They played hard. We turned two pucks over in the second period. They had two goals in the second period,” he said.