The Bentley Generals and Fort St. John flyers had known since last March, that game three of the 2009 McKenzie Cup would be huge.
Tied at 1 game apiece, the teams headed into Saturday night’s battle knowing the winner would get a 2-1 series lead, and take perhaps the biggest step of the season towards qualifying for the Allan Cup. It was the Flyers who opened the scoring, when Rod Stevens fired a wrist shot past Scott Galenza and just inside the left post. It was a powerplay goal for Stevens, his first as a Flyer, and gave Fort St. John the all-important first goal. But, just 28 seconds after Stevens lit the lamp, Curtis Austring deflected a Brett Thurston point-shot, after a nice little give-and-go between Thurston and Sean Robertson, and the game was tied at one. It seemed like the Generals were likely the better team of the first period, as they vastly outshot Fort St. John, and had the lion-share of the goal-scoring opportunities.
In the second, the Generals continued to stymie the Flyers attack, clogging up the neutral zone better than at any point in the series, and keeping the Flyers in their own zone, even short-handed. Kurt Bensmiller scored the go-ahead goal, when he got a stick on a sharp-angle shot from Ryan Manitowich. It was Bensmiller’s second goal of the series, and the rugged forward came out of game three with 6 points on the series, good for the overall McKenzie Cup scoring lead.
Disaster struck for the Flyers late in the second. After a mad scramble in the slot, Curtis Austring found the puck on his stick near the Fort St. John blue line, and fired it over a prone Troy Hunt, and into the open upper part of the net. The goal was Bentley’s second powerplay marker of the game, but more importantly, came with 0.6 seconds remaining in the second.
And so, the Flyers headed into the third period trailing 3-1, and knowing arguably the most-important period of the series lay ahead. But, try as they might, the Flyers were unable to get much sustained pressure in the Bentley zone, due largely to the effective clogging of the neutral zone by the Generals. The Flyers did have some chances on the powerplay in the third, but were unable to cash on their chances. The team was also upset with not getting more chances on the powerplay, arguing that the Generals had been clutching and grabbing all game long.
Late in the game, after a fight between Tyler Loney and Jeff Hansen, the Flyers outrage grew, after both Todd Alexander and Dustin Kersey left the game with injuries. But, when they did get chances on the powerplay, the Flyers struggled to get any sustained pressure in the Generals zone, and Bentley would hold on for a 3-1 win.
Troy Hunt suffered the loss in goal, despite playing very well for the second night in a row. The Flyers were outshot 39-27, and spent a lot of the game hemmed in their own zone. Fort St. John was 1/9 on the powerplay, while Bentley was 2/9.
After Cody Rudkowsky had started the first two games for Bentley, Scott Galenza got the start in game three, and was solid when called upon. Galenza was good, but it was the Generals defence that really shone, allowing hardly any good scoring chances, and eliminating the breakaways and odd-man rushes that hurt them in game 2.
Listen to a highlights package from game 3. [asset|aid=1186|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=43c995f05c14240abff97fa3d1bc3985-Game Three Highlights _1_Pub.mp3]
Listen to a post-game interview with Flyers player-coach Kip Noble. [asset|aid=1187|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=43c995f05c14240abff97fa3d1bc3985-Kip Nobel after Game Three _1_Pub.mp3]
Listen to a post-game interview with Flyers goalie Troy Hunt. [asset|aid=1188|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=43c995f05c14240abff97fa3d1bc3985-Troy Hunt after Game Three _1_Pub.mp3]
And so, the Generals take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five McKenzie Cup, setting up a chance to seal their third straight Allan Cup birth in game four. Game four goes on Sunday evening at 7:30 MST at the Red Deer Arena. Catch it live on MooseFM, with the M&M Meats pre-game show getting underway at 5:45 PST.