Two back-to-back losses over the weekend kept the Eagles in a tailspin, firmly cementing their third-place status at the end of the season. The boys of feather suffered a 3-1 loss to Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs at home Saturday evening and a 6-3 matinee defeat at the hands of the Bentley Generals in their arena Sunday.
Now Innisfail will be forced to play the Generals in the first playoff matchup starting this week.
ìThey've got a lot of skill on their teams,î said Jared Lenz, who played for Bentley for part of the season last year. ìThey just keep coming.î
The Eagles gave up a goal less than a minute into the first period of play against the Chiefs and never quite recovered. Kent Beagle grabbed the two-pointer to tie the game up midway through the first, with assistance from Darnell Glass and Adam McPherson, but they let it slip away over the next two periods.
ìWe out-chanced them,î Lenz said. ìWe just couldn't put the puck in the net.î
Though the Eagles ended up losing the game the following day against Bentley, the game was close right through the third.
A goal that came a few microseconds too late in the third to be counted would have left the Eagles with a tally of four ñ overall a drastic improvement from the heartbreaking 6-0 blowout in December.
ìFor the most part we outplayed them tonight,î said coach Brian Sutter. ìWe know everything about their team. We know what they're going to do before they do it. The difference between the two teams is they've got seven or eight years experience on us.î
The vigour shown by the Eagles kept the game tied into the second period.
Dan Shermerhorn nabbed a couple of goals in the first two thirds, while Brody Malek picked one up in the third on a solo effort.
ìWe did everything well, we just didn't bury our chances,î said forward Kelly Rogers. ìWe've just gotta get a few bounces and get our offence going.î
Ryan Kallis, forward, said all it takes with a team like Bentley is one little sign of weakness to break down.
ìIt was a hard fought battle,î he said. ìYou've gotta go hard because they're gonna go hard.î
And go hard they did, with crisp passes, quick one-timers and rugged skirmishes in the corners, to stay toe to toe with the Generals.
ìWe never give up,î he said. ìBut it's tough. They're a good team.î
Shermerhorn says with zeros across the board heading into the playoffs, anything can happen, taking heart in the performance put on by their coach's brother Darryl's team that brought the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles last year, though they had been down in the standings.
ìThey were in eighth place,î he said. ìAnd they won a cup.î
He says they'll have to stop serving up golden opportunities to the opposite team.
ìWe're giving up Grade A chances,î he said. ìYou've gotta be ready for the playoffs.î
The Eagles will head up to Bentley on Wednesday night for the first game against their archrivals before battling the Generals at the Innisfail Twin Arena starting at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
If the Eagles can learn from their losses, the team will give Bentley a run for their money, according to Sutter.
ìYou're gonna see a hell of a series,î he said. ìThe Town of Innisfail hasn't seen hockey like this in years.î