When the Gens skated off the ice on Saturday, it was the last time in a Gens jersey for four players, including team captain Patrick Forde and alternate captain Connor Stephenson.

Both speak highly of their time with the Gens and the memories they'll treasure.

"It's been a great time," says Forde, who joined the club in 2019. "I've never enjoyed hockey as much as with the Gens. It's such a great culture and such a great group of guys. I owe Cochrane a lot."

He has faith in the younger players returning next season.

"We've got a good core coming back, and a lot of the new guys gelled instantly. They're great players, great guys."

Gens coach Kurtis Jones joined the organization the same year as Forde and speaks highly of his commitment to the team and his positive attitude.

"He came to the arena every day with a big smile on his face. I hope we keep in touch because he's a great kid. I really enjoyed having him here."

Besides his work ethic, he was a skilled player, one of the best in the HJHL over the last few seasons.

Forde was a scoring threat, even with a target on his jersey. He and teammate Tristan Ripplinger proved to be the dynamic dual for the club and the league.

Over four seasons, one of them just three games in duration during the peak of the pandemic, Forde scored 139 goals, including playoffs. He racked up a whomping 251 points.

Forde was just shy of beating the team's regular-season scoring record last year by netting 52, and he was the league's top scorer for both the regular season and playoffs. This season, he finished second in the regular season and was the leading scorer in playoffs up until last Saturday night.

FordeLast spring, HJHL president Ian Hill presented the MVP and top scorer award to Patrick Forde for the 2021-22 season. (file photo)

Forde was named HJHL's MVP and top scorer for the 2021-22 season. When presenting the award, league president Ian Hall talked about Forde's impact on the league.

"It didn't matter who he was playing, he'd find a way to put a puck in the net, and I think a lot of teams are impressed by that," says Hall. "For 14 other teams to pick you to be the MVP says something. It's well deserved."

Forde says he'll be around the rink for a few games next season, and, who knows, may consider coaching the sport later on down the road. For now, though, he will be focusing on completing his education degree at the University of Calgary.

Connor StephensonConnor Stephenson was an impact player for the Gens. (file photo)

Connor Stephenson began his junior career with the Nanaimo Buccaneers before joining the Weyburn Red Wings. Then, to the delight of the Cochrane Generals, he returned to his hometown team during the 2020-21 pandemic season. Once that was out of the way, he proved to be a club leader.

In an interview last season about his growing prowess around the net, Stephenson kind of laughed and said he wasn't best known as a goal scorer. He was selling himself short.

Yes, he was the club's No. 1 policeman, but he also contributed some key goals over the last two seasons.

Jones admires how much Stephenson brought to the club.

"Not point-wise, but I think he was probably our best player this season, consistently game in, game out."

From the stands, you could feel the change in the game when Stephenson stepped on the ice. He helped to fire up the team with his physical play, and along the way earned plenty of frequent flyer points to the penalty box.

Stephenson says he loves the guys he played with.

"I know, on and off the ice every single one of them has my back and with an organization like this we'll be buddies for life."

Having a chance to play on the same team as his brother Caden was definitely a highlight. In the last game, they were even paired on the same line, a rare occasion.

"It was probably the most touching thing for me to play a full year with my brother because a few years apart it didn't happen a lot. It meant a lot to me." 

The Gens won the HJHL south division and a silver medal in provincials while he was with the team, but that wasn't the most important thing for Stephenson. 

"They always say you don't remember the double overtime goal, you don't remember winning playoffs, you remember who you won it with, and I'll remember these guys for the rest of my life."

He says chances are we'll see him around next season watching games.

The junior careers of Zac Fulton and Jamal Kalaf have also ended, and we hope to catch up with them as well.