The Cochrane Generals bowed out of the HJHL playoffs in a 4-3 overtime thriller in a three-game series that went the distance against the High River Flyers.

Down 3-1 earlier in the third, the outcome was looking grim for the Generals until a powerplay goal by Evan Sine from Diago Coelho created a spark at 9:36. A minute and a half later, the game was tied at three on a goal by Ethan Matiece from Caden Stephenson.

A minute and a half into overtime, Ethan Burgeonson scored the winner from McCallum Bakken and Brandon Jarman.

A shorthanded goal by James Quaife at 13:50 of the first gave the Gens a 1-0 before the Flyers responded with two goals in the second. the first on a powerplay.

Flyers head coach Colten Hayes says his team worked hard to improve after a slow start to the season.

"At the end of the day, it's just their work ethic, their tenacity and their eagerness to learn and get better," says Hayes. "From the start of the season to now, you can see that we were building, building, building and then it paid off at the end."

The Flyers looked destined to miss the HJHL playoffs until gaining momentum in January to beat out the Strathmore Wheatland Kings for the final playoff berth in the south division. They won their last seven games, including a 4-0 win against the defending champion Okotoks Bisons, the top team in the league, to wrap up a playoff appearance on the final weekend of the regular season.

Against the Gens, he says they zeroed in keeping HJHL top scorer Tristan Ripplinger and Diago Coelho off the scoreboard.

"I think our defense was unbelievable," he says. "I think we did a really good job neutralizing those guys."

The Gens won the opening games of the series 3-0, the last an empty-netter. The Flyers responded with a 5-2 win on home ice to force the rubber.

He gives the Gens kudos for making a comeback in the final game to make it anyone's series to win.

Gens head coach Kurtis Jones speaks with pride about his team's efforts in the playoffs and what they accomplished this season.

"Everyone judges on wins and losses, but there's a lot of young guys, and there was a lot of progress by our team and not just on the ice," says Jones.  "As the coach, you've got to be pretty proud of where they came from at the start of the season."

"A lot of players said nobody ever gave them the chance to play and how much they've grown through our program on and off the ice." he continued. "The south was a pretty good division this year and we thought we had it going for us. We had our ups and downs, more ups than downs, so I am pretty proud of what they accomplished."

He believes the insertion of Easton Weasel Head into the Flyers lineup in Game Two did have an impact. Weasel Head played 16 regular season games for the Flyers this season and is committed to the Alabama Crimson Tide for 2024-25. He was a standout player for the shortlived Kainai Junior Braves in the 2021-22 season and has played sparingly for the Flyers for the last few seasons.

Despite having played three games against the Gens in four days, the Flyers came out firing to win the opening game of the second round against the Okotoks Bisons, 4-1.

Hayes expressed confidence in his team in advance of the game.

"There's plenty of adrenaline going through the kids, and the kids are all excited to play against Okotoks, and a bunch of all their friends. There's no better team to surprise at the end of the day than the Okotoks Bisons."

"Anything can happen in playoffs. I told our guys that when we were starting to climb and that once we get in, the sky's the limit for our group. We've just got to keep battling, keep working, doing all the stuff that we've been preaching the whole time. "

Game Two goes tonight in High River before it returns to Okotoks on Tuesday.