The Cochrane Generals have the Okotoks Bisons looking over their shoulder in what’s shaping up to be a tight race for second in the south division standings of the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL).
The Gens are the hottest team in the south after racking up their seventh consecutive win last night, Jan. 8, in convincing style over Okotoks. The 5-3 win gives the Gens the edge against their Okotoks rivals should the regular season end in a tie for second.
Gens head coach Travis McMillan says it was a big statement win and the Gens will be a tough team to beat coming down the stretch if they continue to display the same work ethic.
“Going into Coaldale on Saturday night and getting another win under our belt was huge but this was another task that we had to accomplish,” says McMillan. “If we play like we showed in Coaldale and showed here tonight I think we’re going to be a very tough team to beat going down the streak and going into the playoffs.”
The Gens took a 2-1 lead into the second and opened up a three-goal lead before the Bison scored two late in the stanza. Goalie Robert Michetti closed the door on the Bisons in the third and Chris Sambrook scored the assurance goal on a powerplay with seven minutes remaining.
The Bisons went with six attackers for the last two minutes of play but the Gens buffaloed every effort.
Brandon Abb and linemates River Ross and Sambrook each had a goal and assist, as did defenceman Jordan Marks. Caden Chudleigh scored on a powerplay. Scott Shugg, Braden Bain and Taylor Girard all had assists.
Robert Michetti, who's an AJHL Drumheller Dragons affiliate, turned away 26 of 29 shots.
Three-goaltender system is working
With HJHL teams having to make their final cuts by tomorrow, McMillan fully intends to keep three goalies in the rotation.
Those are words that goaltenders may not want to hear, but the system has been working for the Gens. All three played one each in the last three games and all came away with the win.
“I am confident any one of them can go in and get a win for us. Tonight, Rob (Michetti) made some great saves in the second period and the third period especially. He’s been playing very well and we haven’t really given the opportunity to play against big teams lately.”
McMillan says a lesson was learned last season when the Gens ran into injury problems in playoffs and they were left with only one starting goaltender and had to call up an ‘AAA’ backup.
“I didn’t want to make the same mistake that we did last year so carrying three goaltenders I felt was vital.”
Three points behind Bisons
With a game in hand, the Gens are three points behind the Bisons for second as they continue to chip away at an early season deficit. The Coaldale Copperheads have all but clinched first after an 11-game winning streak that was snapped by the Gens. The Gens have won both meetings with Coaldale so far this season, both on the road.
The Gens are at home Friday night against the Ponoka Stampeders before heading to Blackfalds on Sunday.