A highly intense contest from the first puck drop, the second 2019 Allan Cup quarter final proved to be all it was billed.
Exciting, physical and filled with emotion as the Innisfail Eagles and the Haut-Madawaska Panthers hit, punched, hooked and otherwise beat up each other Thursday night in Lacombe.
In the end, Innisfail moved onto Friday afternoon’s semi-final against the other Generals from Stoney Creek, Ontario after posting a 5-1 victory.
“We played really well in the first two games and didn’t get any of the bounces. Tonight, we got a couple instead,” said Eagles head coach Brent Sutter.
“We showed some things, like making it hard on them and working hard ourselves. You don’t get bounces, you earn them and we got rewarded.”
The battle kicked off with Innisfail’s Darren Reid redirecting a pass from Shawn Bates in front of the Panther goal just short of the halfway mark of the first period.
Haut-Madawaska tied it up with 8:40 gone in the middle frame with Andrew Randazzo tipping home a pass from Peter Trainor on an excellent rush up the ice.
However, Reid got his second of the night on the powerplay by deflecting a point shot from Joe Vandermeer past a screened Adrien Lemay in the Panthers net with less than five minutes to go.
The Panthers had a few great scoring opportunities in the final few minutes, including a puck that trickled through Eagles netminder Kraymer Barnstable yet stayed out the net even with a Panthers’ player close to getting a stick on it.
And invariably, a chance at one end seems to result in a goal at that other and that’s exactly what took place with only 1:18 remaining, as a shot from Caylan Walls bounced off the end boards then rebounded into the net off of Lemay’s skate to restore Innisfail’s two goal lead.
Innisfail’s huge physical assets eventually wore down the Panthers, leaving them frustrated and sore in the third. That led to a pair of Eagles’ goals late, from Braden Crone with about four minutes left and an empty-netter from Justin Cox with about three minutes remaining.
“This win felt really good and we’ve been looking for a game like this,” said Innisfail forward Darren Reid.
“We started physical as we knew the kind of thing they do and what we needed to do to slow them down.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Eagles as they take on the as yet undefeated Stoney Creek Generals in the first semi-final at 4 p.m. at the Gary Moe Sportsplex.
The Eagles lost to the Generals 4-1 on Tuesday and Reid feels they know what will provide them with some success.
“We have worked on our powerplay, but what we really have to do is what we did tonight — drive the net and take pucks to the net,” he said.
“There were times the puck would pop out in front, but we wouldn’t have anybody there. We also have to keep up working hard and be physical.”