Exactly who the Cochrane Generals will meet in the south final of the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) won't be known until Game 7 of the other semifinal series between the Coaldale Copperheads and the Medicine Hat Cubs.
While the Gens were busy closing the door on the Okotoks Bisons in a 3-2 win at home last night, the Cubs continue to orchestrate a comeback in the series against the Copperheads to force Game 7. Winner takes all in Coaldale on Saturday night.
Over 400 people filled the Cochrane Arena for last night's game. After a scoreless first period, Chris Sambrook scored his first of two on the night on a powerplay at the mid-point of the first from Brandon Aab. Two minutes later the Bisons responded with their powerplay goal that left the game in a 1-1 deadlock until Sambrook scored a powerplay goal three minutes into the third from Jordan Marks and Brandon Aab.
The goal created a noticeable momentum shift that saw the Gens regain some control over the pressing play of the Bisons. Braden Bain scored an empty-netter with 1:10 remaining in play and that became the game winner after the Bisons scored with six seconds remaining.
While only five games, the series lived up to expectations of being intense and fast-paced. Two of the wins were determined in overtime and all but one of the games came down to one goal.
"Both hockey clubs when they're healthy can be extremely deadly and we, fortunately, came out on top," says Gens head coach Travis McMillan.
Only two points separated the team in the regular season and the Gens won the season matchup by the closest of margins. While Okotoks, finished second, in the end, the Gens proved they deserved a shot at the south division title.
"We shot ourselves in the foot when we lost against Strathmore. That was our blunder and I'll be the first guy to wear something like that. I don't feel robbed but having this series turn in our favour and winning it, that's enough to say that hey, this is how it's supposed to be."
The Gens beefed up their security for the game after a racial slur against the Gens' Vance Wesley at Tuesday's game in Okotoks lead to a scrimmage between fans and Gens players. The Gens had a security team of six and RCMP presence was maintained until the arena cleared.
"I didn't anticipate that our fans would be as rowdy, but their team's safety is our main concern. We wanted a good fast pace hockey game and they expected the same."
Before the start of Thursday's night, Bisons Head Coach Chris Beston met with Wesley to apologize for the actions of his team's fans. McMillan makes it clear the Bisons organization had nothing to do with the altercation.
"Chris understood there was a little bit of racial verbal banter going on between the fans and Vance. So he came over and apologized on behalf of their organization, which was nothing but class. That just goes to show there is nothing but respect between the two clubs.
"Vance is a phenomenal player, he's a phenomenal person, he's the nicest kid and it's just unfortunate that it escalated a little bit too far."
No matter who the Gens play in the south final they expect another fast and intense series.
"You have to make sure that you're prepared for anything. Medicine Hat and Coaldale are both very good hockey clubs and we prepare the same way that we would whether we were playing against Airdrie or Red Deer, any of the top teams. It's playoffs and you see a whole other level of play regardless of where the teams finished in the standings."
The Gens are healthy for the most part but River Ross remains sidelined day-to-day recovering from a concussion sustained late in the regular season.
If the Cubs win against the Copperheads, the Gens will get home ice advantage for the best-of-seven final. If it's the south champion Coaldale, the shoe will be on the other foot.