The Coaldale Copperheads have notched their first win against the Cochrane Generals this season and halted a 12-game winning streak.
The Gens rebounded from a 5-1 deficit at the midway point of the second but their comeback fell short in the 5-4 thriller on Feb. 1.
Gens head coach Travis McMillan says the Copperheads were showing their playoff game face.
"We treated it like a regular-season game, they already have their heads already in the playoff. I can't blame it on mental toughness. The boys played fine, Coaldale just played better."
The Gens did have their share of opportunities but bad bounces, miscues and hot Coaldale goalie Nolan Berner, who turned away 48 shots, made it the Snakes' night. Coaldale is tops in the south and lost the three previous meetings between the two teams.
Losing a game after such a long stretch of wins might be what the doctor ordered going into the post-season.
"We've been doing well for so long that you almost have to take a step back and lose a game in order to refocus and see where the teams at," says McMillan.
"It's a good experience to have. We haven't felt the sting of a loss for so long, it puts you in check."
"I made a point after the hockey game to tell the boys that if you remember this feeling, how bad it is to lose a game and come so close to winning it, that it should be our motivation for the rest of the year and hopefully fuel a push in the playoffs."
Scott Shugg had a pair of goals, including a powerplay goal that sparked the Gens in the dying minutes of the third. Braden Bain scored the other two and found the top corner, also on a powerplay, with just one minute remaining in play. The Copperheads were able to contain the Gens six-man attack that followed.
Today, the Gens are hoping to get back in the win column in only their second meeting of the season with the Medicine Hat Cubs. It will be their first home date with the Cubs in an odd twist in the Heritage Junior Hockey league schedule that sees the Gens play three of their last four games against the Cubs.
The Gens haven't seen the Cubs since Oct. 19 when they lost 5-4 on the road. The Gens have improved their form since that meeting and while lagging behind in fourth, the Cubs are having their best season in some time.
"They've really turned it around this season, so we can't take those last few games for granted or else we'll find ourselves in a bad spot."
Elsewhere in the south division, the second place Okotoks Bisons have opened a five-point spread on the Gens, who have two games in hand. In the only other game in the HJHL schedule today, the Bisons are at home against the High River Flyers. That leaves with Bisons with one final game against the league-leading Airdrie Techmation Thunder.
A few Gens were out of the lineup for Friday's matchup. Both Jaedan Dowling and Takuro Okada were out with minor concussions and Harry Osler is recouping from a shoulder injury. Jordan Fisher returned to the lineup and is finding his form.
With games elsewhere, none of their affiliates were available for the game.
Time change for today's game
Today's game time has been changed to 6:30 p.m. at the Cochrane Arena.