Limited exhibition action didn't prevent the Cannex Cochrane Generals from coming out flying in their opening weekend of HJHL play.
On the road, the Gens easily handled the Mountainview Colts, 9-3, on Friday night, then rose to a 4-1 win in a more physical game against the Red Deer Vipers on Sept. 23.
Team captain Tristan Ripplinger says focusing on team building has helped the club get off to a strong start.
"Our coach decided not to play as many preseason games, and we spent a lot of time bonding as a team," says Ripplinger. "The chemistry in our room is really high moving into the season, and I think it shone through on the opening weekend."
"It's a tight-knit group this year. It's a really happy room and it's fun to be at the rink."
Ripplinger scored a hattrick and linemate Diago Coelho scored one and assisted on two against the Colts. Defenceman James Quaife had a pair and Jordan Butz, Caden Stephenson, and Zach Wilkins notched one apiece.
The Gens proved they're not a team to take lightly on the penalty kill. They scored five of their goals shorthanded.
It was a potentially awkward way to start the season for the Gens. Former Cochrane goal Jordan McGinnis got the start for the Colts and let in five goals on 15 shots before being pulled.
Ripplinger says the team knew they were facing McGinnis but didn't dwell on it.
"I think there was a little bit of nerves on both sides, but we came in with one goal and that was to win. I think we did a really good job with that in our first game."
Saturday against the Vipers, the Gens took a 2-1 lead into the third and scored two more to keep the game out of reach of the Vipers.
"They're a lot bigger, a lot more physical," says Ripplinger. "It was a pretty hard game with all the penalties going on, but we were able to battle it."
Linemates Caden Stephenson and Ethan Matiece each scored one, Diago Coelho scored the winner from Ripplinger, and defenceman Brendan Thubron notched his first of the season.
The Gens home opener at the SLS Centre this Saturday night will mark the return to the SLS Centre after spending the last five seasons at the Cochrane Arena.
Saturday night, they host the Airdrie Techmation Thunder. On Sunday, the Coaldale Copperheads are here for a late afternoon game.
None of the current players and coaching staff were with the Gens when they last played at the SLS Centre. Ripplinger says they are fired up about their new home.
"It's going to be a lot of fun It'll be good to see all the new fans at the rink. Hopefully, we'll get a win against Airdirie in our home opener and do it for everybody who comes out and watches."
"It's definitely a big change but we're really happy to be there and they've been great to us. Cannex and all our sponsors have been doing a great job of getting us prepared and providing us with the equipment, ice times, and all the things we need to be a successful team."
The puck drops at 7:15 on Saturday night at Totem One.
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