The Lacombe Generals are being given a good reminder that nothing comes easy during playoffs.
Lacombe racked up 18 regular season wins compared to just three for the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs, their first round playoff opponent. But the first two games of their Senior AAA Provincial Semi-finals series have been much closer than that.
The Generals gutted out a 2-0 win in the series opener Sunday in Fort Saskatchewan. Monday afternoon in Lacombe they needed an overtime goal from Nolan Huysmans to come away with a 3-2 victory.
The biggest reason the series has been as tight as it has been is Chiefs goalie Devon Fordyce, who's turned aside 94 of the 99 shots he’s faced through two games.
“We aren’t going to score too many goals on this guy if we don’t have guys going to the net,” Generals head coach Sean Robertson observed following Monday’s game. “If he can see the puck and he doesn’t have guys coming at him, I think he is going to make the save.”
Fort Saskatchewan opened up a 2-0 lead in game two on first period goals from Gerald Desjarlais at the 3:18 mark and Jordan Wood at 12:41 on a power play.
Lacombe replied with a pair of goals late in the second period from Jesse Todd, on a power play at 16:37, and Brennan Evans at 19:39.
Neither team found the back of the net in the third period. In overtime, Huysmans beat Fordyce through the five hole with a shot from a sharp angle at the 10:03 mark.
“(Brad) Stebner did a good job of getting the puck up ice. I had a lot of room. I looked towards the middle and then was able to squeak it short side. I think the goalie started to cheat a little bit,” Huysmans said in describing his game winning tally.
Lacombe outshot Fort Saskatchewan 56-25 on the afternoon.
Robertson is pleased with his team’s work ethic and defensive zone play, and expects the rest of the best-of-seven series to be a tightly-contested as the first two games.
“Gone are the days of mailing in efforts and walking over teams. Defence will win you hockey games. Not offence. For us to only give up two goals over the weekend was fairly important.”
Robertson added, “We have some depth now. They have some depth now. We are completely two different teams than from the regular season.”
Kyle Sheen is back in the Generals lineup following his lengthy suspension for a hit on former Stony Plain Eagles forward Ryan Smyth during last year’s playoffs.
Sheen ended up missing 41 games, Robertson says, and played a played a handful of contests for the Eckville Eagles before suiting up for Lacombe in Sunday’s series opener.
“It’s a lift for moral for guys that have been here for a long time, he’s the ultimate teammate,” Robertson explained. “Kyle’s a leader on our team because of what kind of human being he is. He puts his team first all the time. Whether he plays two minutes, 40 minutes, or nothing at all, if he’s in that dressing room guys know they have to look him in the eye and know that he gives all every time he’s out there.”
The series resumes Saturday, Feb. 24 in Lacombe (7:30 p.m. at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex).
The other provincial playoff series between Innisfail and Stony Plain saw Stony Plain win the opener 3-2 on Sunday. Game two goes Wednesday night in Innisfail (8:45 p.m.).
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