The Cochrane Chaos are kicking off their AJFHL playoffs on Friday night in a south division best-of-three semifinal series against the Calgary Titans.
The opening game is at 7:15 p.m. in Totem One. Game Two is a Saturday matinee at Winsport D. If necessary, the series returns to Cochrane.
Over the weekend, the Chaos wrapped up their regular season on a strong note, defeating the Foothills Storm twice and the Lethbridge Eagles in overtime.
Friday night at home, the Chaos took control early against the Storm and fended off a late comeback attempt to walk away with a 6-3 win. On the road Sunday, Cochrane beat them again, 8-2.
Saturday in Lethbridge, the Eagles chipped away at the 2-0 Chaos lead and forced overtime. Kelly Stanford, the league's top scorer, notched the winner at 2:09 in the three-on-three overtime period.
The Chaos know the biggest obstacle to etching their name on the cup is the north division's Edmonton Wolves, the top team in the regular season with just three losses. Right now, though, they are focusing on coming out of the south.
They've been a league championship finalist for several years and won last year, and know playoffs are a fresh start for all the teams, and anything can happen. In 2022, the Eagles upset the Chaos in the south final in a year the Chaos only lost two regular season games.
"We're just staying focused on where we want to be at the end of the season," says team captain Sarah Nusl. "We know that if we don't show up to play against any team in this league, we won't come out on the right side."
"Games where we start off strong, we end up coming out on the right side, and games where we start off just sleeping or not ready to play, we seem to lack that momentum required to come through."
Head coach Derek Loomer says single points separated second to fourth place in the south. Had the Chaos beaten Lethbridge in regulation, the Eagles would have finished fourth instead of third. In the end, the Storm finished second with 34 points, the Eagles third with 33, and the Titans with 32. The Chaos were far ahead with 65 points and only four losses, two of them against their archrivals, the Edmonton Wolves.
Loomer says they are taking it one series at a time.
"We start Friday with the Titans, so we'll we focus on that and then we see who comes out of the next round. You've got to focus on where you're at first and get there at the end of the day."
The team is determined to return to the provincials to defend their title.
"Our girls are really excited to get to this part of the season. I think they're starting to get that determination to get another shot at another title. When you've done it once, it just makes you hungrier to do it again. I'm looking forward to getting our top line up on the ice and turning them loose and seeing what they can do."