Despite being the host team this time around, the road to the Allan Cup remains a long and eventful journey for the Bentley Generals.
The Generals, under the guidance of new Head Coach Brandin Cote, split their first two games to open the Chinook Hockey League season last weekend.
They have two more league games this weekend before heading to Saskatchewan for a two game trip next weekend.
Following that, they welcome their long time rivals, the Fort St. John Flyers, for a pair of exhibition games on the Remembrance Day long weekend.
On Thursday, I chatted with Cote about a number of topics concerning his club... including opening weekend, new faces on the Generals roster, and how he's settling into his new gig...
On the Generals' season opening 7-1 victory last Saturday night over Brian Sutter and the Innisfail Eagles...
BC: "Overall, it was definitely positive. The first game was a big game in a lot of respects against Innisfail. From our perspective, it was just another game. But we wanted to come out and set tone as far as establishing for the rest of the league the way we are going to play. I thought we did that for the most part. They [Innisfail] came out hard, they're definitely an improved team and they took it too us a bit in the first period. But once we got settled down, we got into the routine of how we want to play. We were aggressive and scored some goals and just kept it simple and played physical against them."
Cote's thoughts on the Generals 5-3 loss at home to the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs last Sunday afternoon...
BC: "Obviously, a disappointing result. We're not used to losing many games at home. What it boils down to is we didn't have enough guys ready to play at the start of the game and we fell behind the 8-ball 3-0. Anytime you give a skilled team like Fort Saskatchewan that lead it's tough to come back. At the end of the day, we probably had enough opportunities to win the game. Their goaltender played well once we tied it up. We were pressing pretty hard. The third period was an even period but they got a lucky break at the end and it was too little, too late [for the Generals to come back from] with a minute and a half left."
On playing a pair of emotional back to back games (Saturday night, Sunday afternoon) to start the regular season...
BC: "Anytime you can play back to back games, and we're going to have a lot of those down the stretch once we get into playoffs that's what it's going to be like, the more of those situations we can get ourselves into, the better. We're just gonna get better as we go as far as getting into shape and practicing the things we need to practice. The main thing is just getting into those competitive situations. Last weekend, that first game was very emotional in some regards. [It was] disappointing to have a letdown at the start of the second game. We have a lot of new guys in the lineup and, with the changes that went on, there's a bit of a transition. So, you take them as they come and you learn from the things you maybe didn't do so well. We worked on some things last night in practice to get us ready for this weekend and we'll see how the guys respond."
On how he is feeling now that he has his first two league games as Generals head coach under his belt...
BC: "It's going really well. I've had nothing but positive feedback from the guys. Guys are really receptive to the way that we're doing things as far as the coaching staff is concerned. Really, the message is very simple... we come to work. It's not a lot different from what has gone on in the past. There's just a few different technical/structural things that I've brought in that guys are appreciating. Practices are a bit different than what they were used to under Brian. But, at the same time, they're still very intense. The expectations are very high and the guys are appreciative of that. As far as that's concerned, things have gone real well. When chance is made, sometimes it takes a little while for people to get on with everything. But, for the most part, everyone has been real receptive and I'm encouraged by how it's gone."
On being the head coach for a team he recently played for and still includes some of his former teammates...
BC: "I have my philosophy just to be really honest and upfront with the guys and communicate well with them. Of course, I'm friends with these guys off the ice. But when we get to the rink they understand my position and I understand their position. It's been a real professional relationship. It can work the other way, I've seen it happen. I'm definitely appreciative of Jeff [Generals GM McInnis] providing me the opportunity and the guys in the room for giving me the chance to earn their trust as a coach. So far, so good."
Thoughts on the shape of his roster to start the season...
BC: "I do have a good problem, and I don't think it's happened here in a long time, where we have extra guys every weekend. So basically, I'm taking the approach, and the guys know this, that it's a game to game basis. The guys have bought into that. Down the road, it just going to bring a more competitive nature to our team. Guys are respecting everyone on our team but at the same time are competing for ice time."
A few comments on some of the newest Bentley Generals...
BC: "We're lucky. We got a little younger and a little quicker. Guys like [former Red Deer Rebels player and assistant coach] Chris Nieszner and [former Rebel] Dustin Moore, they are really competitive people and they just come and they play... so far, those two guys, in particular, have been real impressive. They have some skill and can shoot the puck and they play a physical, two-way type of game. Those are the type of character guys that we wanted to bring in."
"Another [new] guy who hasn't played yet, he was supposed to play last wekend but had a transfer card issue, is Dustin Sproat. He's another one of those real low maintenance guys that can play at both ends of the ice. He's gonna bring some offense to our lineup as well and is gonna play this weekend."
"Matt Stefanishion is another guy who I think we really appreciate having. He's a big body. He can skate and he can shoot the puck. He brings a physical, intimidating element to our lineup that we haven't had in a long time. Shawn Germain has brought a positive spin to our defence. He's more of a two-way guy who skate and move the puck well. I'm really impressed with a lot of the new guys that have come in. They are definitely injecting some enthusiasm and a new perspective on things that maybe we haven't had in a few years."
Cote's thoughts on his core group of veterans, including Kent Beagle who is back in action this season...
BC: "He's one of those guys who wanted to give it another shot and, not even just from a playing perspective, he's great to have around the room again. Guys appreciate what he's done over the years for our organization. The same thing with all those guys... Harsty [Tyler Haarstad] has been around a long time and he knows his role and whenever you put him in the lineup you know what you're gonna get. It's real important to have those core guys like Rubes [Sean Robertson] and Joe [Vandermeer] and Mo [Don Morrison]. They know what it takes, they've been there. They are able to communicate the expectations of the coaching staff the new guys and as time goes on guys are gonna keep buying in more and more. I think we'll be ready to go by the time the real season, if you will, gets going after Christmas time."
Finally, Cote on his goaltending tandem of Travis Yonkman and Andrew Penner...
BC: "Yonkman is, for most of the year, gonna be our guy. Penner, during the regular season, may or may not be around depending on his work schedule. I had never seen him but [Generals assistant coach Ryan Tobler] had played with him in Colorado and I'd heard a lot of good things about him from Ryan. We brought him in for that first game and, quite frankly, in the first ten minutes of that game he made some real key saves to keep us in the game early and then we just settled down and took over. He's just a real calming influence back there. He can play the puck, he's a big guy, he's got good feet. Down the stretch, he's gonna be a good ace in the hole to have. Overall, our goaltending situation is where we want it."
This weekend... the Generals visit the Sylvan Lake Admirals [Friday, 8:30pm Medican Multiplex] and the Stony Plain Eagles [Saturday, 7:30pm Glenn Hall Centennial Arena].
A few good websites for you to check out...
- Bentley Generals official team site
- Chinook Hockey League
- Allan Cup 2013
And on Twitter (some #FF's if you will)...
- @Cotesy37 (Brandin Cote)
- @AdmiralsAAA (Sylvan Lake Admirals)
- @innisfaileagles (Innisfail Eagles)
- @StonyPlainEagle (Stony Plain Eagles)
- @TheSnipeshow (Wade Giesbrecht - "Generals Army" member. Not much
gets past him when it comes to the Chinook league and senior hockey. He
also, rightly, pointed out the flaws in a blog I
wrote a couple of months ago ;)