When the HJHL playoffs were scrapped, the Cochrane Generals were a solid contender for the league championship.
While we can only speculate on the outcome, junior hockey fans were enjoying exciting end-of-end hockey action between the top teams in the league when Hockey Canada announced the cancellation of the balance of the season due to COVID-19.
The Gens 3-2 overtime win over the Okotoks Bisons on Mar. 12 turned out to be their final game. Gens head coach Kurtis Jones suspected that might happen, and the coaching staff told the players before Game 4 began.
"We said to the guys, this is our championship game. We have to go out and play," says Jones. "And they did. That's all you can ask for."
Jones says the Gens team evolved as the season progressed.
"We had a great season. At the start, it was a little rocky for us. For the players, it was a new coach with a different style of coaching than they had in the past, and they bought in."
At the beginning of the season, the team set a goal of forming a competitive team, getting a bye from the first round of playoffs, and winning the HJHL championship. Two of those three had been checked off before the plug was pulled.
"I believe we were right there to do it but got cut short."
Jones says he'll be back next season, but general manager Rick Richards won't.
"Rick is moving on, but he'll be behind the scenes helping out as much as he can."
The club is currently seeking someone to fill Richards' shoes.
Several other Cochrane hockey teams were impacted by the suspension of play, practices, and championships instituted by Hockey Canada.
The Cochrane Chaos were hot and heavy into the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League playoffs. At the time of the cancellation, they were leading their south final series against the Calgary Titans.
The AC Avalanche were gearing up for the Alberta AAA minor midget championship after finishing second in the Sutter Cup South. Some Cochrane Rockies and Bow Valley Timberwolves teams were also advancing to provincial championships.