From Halifax with heart

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

STONY PLAIN -- Tell the Halifax Canadians they don't look anything like you'd expect, and they take it as a compliment.

And well they should.

The team was assembled just three weeks ago, and hadn't played a single regular season game until last night's debut at the Allan Cup - but you'd never know it from looking.

They gave the tough and undefeated Bentley Generals all they could handle and then some, losing 5-3 in a game that wasn't decided until Bentley scored an empty-netter in the final seconds.

"All we've had this year is three exhibition games against Trail, B.C. - that's our whole season," said head coach Shawn MacKenzie. "So I thought our guys played pretty hard against a team that's very good and very seasoned.

"There was some sloppiness, but the effort was there. That was a game to get our legs under us, and I saw some positive things. Hopefully, we'll get better as the tournament goes along."

They're pretty good already, which is rather impressive considering they are about five months behind everyone else here.

"There's no competition back home for us, so we've been practising for the last three weeks or so," said MacKenzie. "It's a very unique situation, but the guys have a lot of enthusiasm, they want to play hockey. We're really proud to be here."

The cast of players - a lot of former university players and some former minor pros - came to the tournament unsure of what to expect from themselves, or anyone else.

"It's really hard for us to gauge because we haven't had any competition. What we want to do is come out and at the end of it have no regrets, know that we've given it our best.

"We know we're a little bit behind the 8-ball, but we just want to have a good showing, provide good competition. With a couple of bounces, who knows?"

In tonight's games, Lloydminster plays Halifax at 4:30 and Stony Plain takes on Shawinigan at 8 p.m.


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