With their backs against the wall, and their bodies battered and bruised, the Flyers did battle with the Bentley Generals in game 4 of the McKenzie Cup on Sunday night.
Troy Hunt earned the start in goal, his third straight start of the series, and the goalie continued his fine play, keeping his team in the game until the very end.
There were plenty of other changes to the roster for Fort St. John. Dustin Kersey was unable to play, because of a collar-bone or rib injury, while Clayton Bahm suffered a fractured foot, also in game three, and also couldn’t go. Jeff Fast checked back into the lineup, while star defenceman Kip Noble also dressed.
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Noble’s appearance was necessitated by a dwindling Flyer roster, and he was penned in to play sparingly on the third defensive pairing, and to help out on the powerplay. But, he soon found himself obligated to play more and more shifts, after the casualties continued to mount. The Flyers lost Arlo Hadland in the first period, after he took a hard hit from Sean Robertson, dislodging a couple of teeth, and possibly fracturing his jaw. Robertson was served 5 minutes and a game for elbowing, but the Flyers would lost most of the powerplay time with penalties of their own.
In the second, the Flyers lost another D-man, when Bryan Lewis was knocked headfirst into the boards, leaving him concussed, and unable to continue. And there were many other Flyers feeling the effects of a long and physical battle with the Generals. Todd Alexander somehow played, despite receiving a nasty concussion late in game 3, wearing a full-face shield, but playing his usual rugged style. Tyler Brough stayed in the lineup despite a nagging shoulder injury. Tyler Loney played with a broken nose.
The must-win game did not start well for the Flyers. Just 25 seconds in, Kevin Smyth banged home a rebound, to give the Generals an early head-start. Ryan Manitowich rounded out the first period scoring summary, when he took a gorgeous breakaway pass from Joe Vandermeer, and beat Troy Hunt with a backhander, to give the Generals a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Early in the second, Kurt Bensmiller scored his third goal of the series, to make it 3-0 Bentley. But after Bensmiller’s goal, after getting into penalty trouble and suffering more injures, the Flyers began to fight their way back into the game.
7 minutes into the second, Rod Stevens scored his second goal in as many games, firing a snap-shot just inside the left post, to give the Flyers life. 7 minutes later, Ian Munro got the Flyers within one, when he knocked home an Adam Loncan centring pass, to make it 3-2 Bentley.
The Flyers would continue to push in the third, but the stingy defence of the Generals was backstopped by at-times sensational goaltending from Cody Rudkowsky, and the clock began to tick down on the Flyers’ season. And finally, in the dying seconds of the game, Rudkowsky would make one more glove save on a Kip Noble slapper, Bentley cleared the puck, and the Generals began to celebrate their McKenzie Cup win.
After the final horn sounded, the teams met at centre ice for the traditional handshake. After a ferocious playoff battle, the teams showed their mutual respect, and received an ovation from the Red Deer Arena crowd, for a tremendous McKenzie Cup series.
And so, the Generals prevail as McKenzie Cup champions for the third consecutive year, while the Flyers suffer their third consecutive defeat at the hands of their Albertan foes. The Generals will represent the Pacific region at the 2009 Allan Cup, while the Flyers will begin preparations for their 2009-10 season, as Allan Cup hosts.
But despite Sunday’s loss, the Flyers gave possibly their grittiest effort yet on this night. The team will undoubtedly spend another summer of disappointment and regret, but can take solace in the fact they truly did leave everything they had on the ice.
Bentley’s Kurt Bensmiller was named McKenzie Cup MVP, for his gritty and relentless play in front of the Flyers net. Bensmiller was brought in as an affiliate player for the Generals, but played on the top line alongside Kevin Smyth and Curtis Austring. He scored 3 goals in the series, which all three of them, the game winners for Bentley.
Click here to listen to a highlights package from Game 4. [asset|aid=1189|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-Bentley Generals win Mckenzie Cup 3-2_1_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyer Adam Loncan. [asset|aid=1190|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-Adam Loncan Interview_1_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyers captain David Alexander. [asset|aid=1191|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-David Alexander Interview_1_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Bentley coach Brian Sutter. [asset|aid=1192|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-Brian Sutter Interview_2_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyers coach Adam Brash. [asset|aid=1193|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-Adam Brash Interview_2_Pub.mp3]
Click here to listen to a post-game interview with Jon Zacks and Flyers goalie Troy Hunt. [asset|aid=1194|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=a4fcc54a4480423245e55f03fa7a888e-Troy Hunt Interview_1_Pub.mp3]
And so, the 2008/09 series comes to a close for Fort St. John. Congratulations to the Flyers on a great season, on an epic McKenzie Cup, and on an inspirational game four effort.