Eagles claw back to remain in playoffs

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Innisfail downs Stony Plain 4-2, avoids elimination in Game 4

INNISFAIL – Don’t count them out.

The Innisfail Eagles, down 3-0 to Stony Plain and facing elimination, came out fighting Sunday night.

The Birds got on the board early in Game 4 of the semifinals in the Allan Cup Hockey West playoffs, with a goal from Greg Moore just past the two-minute mark of the first period. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead three minutes later with a goal from affiliate player Kurt Bensmiller.

“I really do believe this series could be a 4-0 the other way right now or at least at 3-1,” said Bensmiller. “When you go to overtime in two games and lose by a goal it’s anybody’s game.”

Bensmiller said they are ready to battle.

“I think if we stick to the game plan and keep getting pucks to the net, I think we’ll have a good chance,” he said. “We’ve been right there on the doorstep every game and if we get a couple of bounces our way, we’ll be tough to beat.

“We knew we had to win four games when we came into this series, it just happens to be the last four,” he added.

Stony Plain netted their first goal late in the first period, but Innisfail regained a two-goal lead when forward Chad Robinson scored early in the second period, thanks to a strong forecheck from linemate Dan Nichols.

“They turned the puck over and I basically had a wide-open lane to the net and picked a corner,” said Robinson, noting the importance of Innisfail’s first win in the series.

“It’s huge for us. It feels good to finally get on a roll here,” he added.

Innisfail’s Sam Lawson finished the scoring of the game late in the third period with an empty net goal.

Head coach Brian Sutter was suspended two games Saturday night in Stony Plain. Assistant coach and general manager Ryan Dodd was behind the bench for Game 4 Sunday.

“It’s been a hard-fought battle and it was another hard-fought battle tonight,” said Dodd. “It’s like having someone backed into a corner. What are you going to do; you’re going to come out fighting and you’re going to be fighting all the way to the end.

“We knew that it was going to take a full team effort from everybody,” he added. “We knew this series was going to be a tight battle and we’re prepared to have a long, lengthy battle.”

With every game decided by just a goal or two, the Innisfail Eagles remain confident said Dodd.

“It stings when you are losing games by a goal and you’re losing them in overtime, but the morale of the club is strong,” he said.

“We’re prepared to go seven games.”

Kurt Bensmiller, Innisfail Eagles forward.

“We’ve been right there on the doorstep every game and if we get a couple of bounces our way, we’ll be tough to beat.”

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Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean is a reporter with the Innisfail Province, joining the newspaper in 2013. She covers Penhold municipal politics, news and community events as well as sports in and around the town as well as in Innisfail.