The Flyers knew before they arrived that the first 20 minutes of game one of the McKenzie Cup would be big test. And when the big day arrived, the Flyers looked nervous and outmatched in the first period, falling behind 4-0 by the time the first intermission arrived.
Ryan Manitowich scored the first goal of the McKenzie Cup, when he took a nice lead pass from defenceman Brett Thurston, and skated in alone on Flyers starter Chad Vizzutti, beating the netminder with a snap-shot to the stick side. Soon, it was the Generals powerplay going to work. Kevin Smyth notched the first powerplay marker, when he beat Vizzutti on a wrap-around, to double the lead. Kurt Bensmiller was a factor all game long, particularly for his strong play in front of Vizzutti, but he also scored a powerplay marker, when he fired home a rebound. Vizzutti lost his stick on the play, and argued that he had been interfered with by Bensmiller, but his argument fell on deaf ears, and the Generals led 3-0. Kevin Smyth rounded out the first period scoring, when he walked out unmolested from behind the net, and fired a puck through a screened Vizzutti, for the third powerplay goal of the period, and a 4-0 lead through 20 minutes.
But, in the second, the Flyers would find their game. Arlo Hadland got the ball rolling, by stripping a General attacker, and firing a quick outlet pass to Todd Alexander. Todd busted down the right wing, but rather than barging to the net, put on the brakes and slid a centring pass to his cousin David, who jammed it past Cody Rudkowsky. Rudkowsky got the start after joining Bentley from the Stony Plain Eagles, for whom he was named provincial playdown MVP for his stellar work against the Generals in the playoffs. Ian Munro got the Flyers within two, when he deflected a Ryan Carter point-shot, for the Flyers first and only powerplay goal of the game. Soon after, Paul Wiens fired a rocket off the post, just missing a chance to further close the gap, and the second period ended with the Generals still ahead 4-2.
In the third period, the Generals felt the Flyers turning up their game, and retreated into a defensive shell. The Flyers continued to press, but couldn’t seem to get many shots towards the net of Ruskowsky, due to excellent pressure from the defensive forwards from Bentley. Finally, Chris Martini sealed the win for Bentley, when a General point-shot hit a leg and bounced to Martini, who fired it past a wrong-footed Vizzutti. Chad Vizzutti wouldn’t go down quietly though, as he made quite possibly the save of the season, when he slid across his goal and somehow gloved-down a seeminly automatic scoring chance from Kurt Bensmiller. The save drew an ovation from the Red Deer crowd, who went home happy, after a 5-2 win from the Generals.
As with the 2008 McKenzie Cup, the Generals defence continued to be a game story, as they stymied numerous Fort St. John scoring chances. The Generals blocked shots, but also seemed to always be in the shooting lanes, not allowing the Flyers point men enough chances to shoot the puck.
Special teams were also a major factor in the game, with the Generals 3/8 on the powerplay, and the Flyers just 1/8, including 2 5-on-3 advantages. The Generals outshot the Flyers 38-29, and take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Click here to listen to a game 1 highlights package. [asset|aid=1180|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=b33b327abd57af712f7f6e44135139c6-Flyers lose 5-2 to the Generals_1_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyers coach Adam Brash. [asset|aid=1181|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=b33b327abd57af712f7f6e44135139c6-Adam Brash Interview_1_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyer Tyler Loney. [asset|aid=1182|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=b33b327abd57af712f7f6e44135139c6-Tyler Loney Interview_2_Pub.mp3]
Game two goes on Friday night, at the Red Deer Arena. Catch the game live on MooseFM, with the pregame starting at 5:45 PST, and the puck set to drop at 6:30 PST.