The 2018-19 season may be behind the Cochrane Generals but it won't be long before the gears start to turn to build a team for the next Heritage Junior Hockey League season (HJHL).
Cochrane Generals coach and assistant GM Travis McMillan talked about the final playoff series, the fans and some of the initial steps that will be taken in preparation for the next season in the final interview of the 2018-19 season.
The similarities between the last two series go beyond their 4-1 finishes, believes McMillan.
The Copperheads advanced after downing the Gens in Coaldale, Mar. 13. The series previous saw the Gens win 4-1 against the Okotoks Bisons.
"For the most part we were doing a good job and capitalized first," says McMillan about the last game. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold any momentum throughout the rest of the game. Coaldale systematically broke us apart period-by-period."
"A good hockey team won a good series."
"The whole story of the series can’t be surrounded by Coaldale winning the series 4-1. Each game I feel was won in either the first five minutes of the third period or the last five minutes. We were there for the majority of the series and we just couldn’t put together a full 60-minute game."
Even the series against the Bisons could have also gone either way because of the parity in the south between the top teams.
"We won 4-1, but if break down each game period-by-period they were right there and it could have gone either way. The final picture isn’t really painted until you break down each game period-by-period."
Making the move to the Cochrane Arena this season was not about cost (the price was the same), it was about creating a more dynamic and intimate atmosphere and as the season advanced the fans responded.
"I have to give credit to our fans. Throughout the season it just got better and better. The atmopshere in that old rink is fantastic when you have 300-400 fans in it.
They had that as the playoffs progressed and a high point was the comeback win by the Gens in Game Four of the Coaldale series.
"I’ve never seen a crowd react so loudly. It felt like there was 1,000 people in that building. The boys take it into consideration and appreciate everything this town does for us."
"Having people come out on a Friday night to watch a couple of teams of 20 years old teams play some hockey is a special thing. I think the Town of Cochrane has a special thing going and I’m just happy we’re able to be a part of it."
There are a few things details that need to be cleaned up from the season then in a few weeks the focus will be on next season.
"We're gear down in sense that we're not doing much until playoffs wrap up but I'd say in 3 -4 weeks our board of directors will get together and hash out a plan for the off-season."
That includes building up the success of their first summer camp last year and recruitment.
"We will be talking to and looking at a lot of prospects. I know there are some players that are quite eager to try out for our team."
That may even include some junior 'A' players looking for a change, as did defenceman Jordan Marks this season.
The Gens., though, had quite a young team this past season and only one player, Braden Bain, is aging out. That means they potentially have 22 returning players.
"There’s always an opportunity to improve as a team and ultimately a team has new faces each year."
They do have their leadership in place with Brandon Aabs, Chris Sambook, Harry Olser and Jordan Fisher all returning. Taylor Girard, too, will be returning as an over-ager.
"There’s your leadership group right there."
While on the outlook for budding talent, the club continues to seek opportunities for their players with the potential to play at a higher level. McMillan sees it as an important part of any junior program.
"If you’re just getting kids funnelled into your organization and that’s it for them, what's the point of coaching hockey?"
"The ultimate goal is to produce a progression in a player’s development and the development of the athlete is the main concern for any coach or at least it should be at the junior level."