The AA Lacombe Generals (4-7-0-0) came out ready to carve the Christmas ham against Blackfalds Wranglers (4-6-0-1), slicing through the defence en route to four first period goals and an eventual 8-3 win.
“The first 30 minutes of that game we definitely dominated. I think we let our foot off the gas later and played down to their level,” Generals Coach Jordan Koopmans said.
The game was the last of 2019 for both teams and the win catapulted Lacombe past Blackfalds for sole possession of sixth place in the NCHL standings and also helps make up for a game the Generals won, but was forced to forfeit against the Wranglers earlier this season.
The aforementioned four first period goals was triggered by Generals co-owners Reed Watts and Jared Williams both scoring within four minutes. Josh Smith would, later that period, chase Wrangler Goalie Cody Nicolay out of the net and Taylor Mulder would score with under 30 seconds left, giving Lacombe a commanding 4-0 lead after one.
“We talked in the room about getting on them early,” Watts said. “They are a good team and if you let them stick around, they will build some momentum and that will cost you. It was really important we got on them early.”
Blackfalds would show a bit more life in the second period, but an extended 5-on-3 powerplay for Lacombe spurred by a Wrangler unsportsmanlike conduct penalty would ultimately see them fall back even further.
Jagger Bowles and Kyle Maas would both tickle the twine for the Gens’ during said 5-on-3, leading to a 6-0 lead heading into third.
Blackfalds would have a better third period, but the gme was over before the period started. Spencer Scott, Garrett Glasman and Shane Goodrunning would all score for the Wranglers; but the Gens’ would carry this one, getting additional goals from Chance Abbott and Kevin Vandenhoven.
Lacombe would finish with an 8-3, but the game ended on a sour note with Bowles going doing behind the net with under a minute left with an apparent lower body injury.
“Jags is a core guy and anyone who goes down in that room, it really hurts us. Jags has been with us for three years, he is a great guy and to see him go down really hurts. Hopefully he not out long-term.”
Bowles was taken to the hospital following the game.
“That is hard to see when the game is over like that. We hope the best for him and hopefully he is healthy and can come back in the new year,” Koopmans said.
Gens netminder MacKenzie Engel took the win, stopping 29 shots in the process.
“Going into the break, we can’t really afford to take any games off — especially being neck and neck with them in the standings. These are the games we have to win,” Koopmans said
Lacombe will open 2020 with a home game against the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs on Jan. 4, while Blackfalds will take on Bonnyville in Bonnyville that same day.
Koopmans is hoping for consistency in the near year.
“We are most effective when we can roll our four lines and play hard hockey to wear down the other teams. It’s when we have shorten our bench and run into penalty trouble that creates difficulties,” Koopmans.