Blackie pick-up helps Generals to Allan Cup title
Hockey: Jeremy Colliton and Bentley win Senior AAA nationals in Red Deer
Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 06:00 am
Following a hard luck couple of seasons, a New York Islanders draft pick from the foothills earned some overdue hockey success at the Allan Cup.
Blackie’s Jeremy Colliton and the Bentley Generals shutout the Clarenville Caribous 3-0 to win the Allan Cup, the Senior AAA men’s national championship, Saturday at the Red Deer Arena.
“We just had to make sure we played our best game on the biggest stage and knew that we had the team to beat anyone,” Colliton said. “We realized (Clarenville) had a lot of skill in their top two lines and their powerplay had been excellent so we just ground the game down to where it was extremely physical and didn’t give them anytime and space.
“Over the 60 minutes we wore them down and that was our plan.”
Chris Neiszner, Scott Doucet and Kennan Desmont bulged the twine for Bentley, while Dan Bakala turned aside all 35 shots he faced in front of a capacity partisan Generals crowd in Red Deer.
The Generals have been a fixture in the Allan Cup as finalists in four of the last six tournaments, but had just one gold medal in the 2009 tournament to show for it.
“We had such a good group of guys with the team, and not only the team, but the people around Bentley, the organization and people who come to the games there’s a lot of pride there,” Colliton said. “They’ve been to the Allan Cup quite a few times and only won once before so you could feel how much it meant to everyone.
“That made it really rewarding that we did win.”
The 28-year-old is no stranger to winning on the national stage, as a silver and gold medallist for Canada at the World Junior championships in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and gold medal winner at the World U18 championships in 2003.
However, the Allan Cup title marks his first national championship, in a tournament with a tremendously rich history dating back to 1909.
“Bentley, the organization and Red Deer did a great job of hosting and it really like a special event and big time tournament,” Colliton said. “There were some really good teams there, really good players and guys that have played at a high level for a long time.”
The Generals featured four former NHLers in Colliton, Trent Hunter, Travis Brigley and Matt Kinch.
Bakala, a former Calgary Jr. A Royal, was named the tournament MVP.
Colliton, the Islanders’ second round pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, was sidelined for parts of the 2011-12 season with Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. Due in part to lingering symptoms from a second concussion he was not signed for the 2012-13 season.
“Last season I was in Bridgeport and had injury problems pretty much the whole year. I got hurt in camp and had two concussions spread out over a couple months and just never got better,” he said. “I couldn’t play or sign anywhere at the start of the year. The European transfer deadline came and went and I was feeling better and close but I didn’t want to push it, didn’t want to rush it.”
Enter the Generals.
Following prolonged interest from Bentley general manager Jeff McInnis and a clean bill of health from his doctor, Colliton agreed to join the Generals, hosts of the Allan Cup, for the stretch drive in early February.
“Early on I wasn’t really considering it because I was planning on continuing to play pro,” Colliton said. “After the deadline went I had been skating hard and (Jeff) asked me how I was and I decided to take him up on his offer.”
The centre position in Bentley faced a vacancy late in the season due to a player’s departure to Europe and once a doctor cleared Colliton he suited up the following day for the Generals.
“It was perfect for me because I’m going to play (pro) next year,” he said. “And now instead of going without playing high level games for 18 months, I played and everything went well. I had some big time collisions and got hit in the head and a few times and no problems.
“I’m feeling very confident going into next year.”