With a 3-2 win on the road yesterday, the Cochrane Generals have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in a seven-game south division semifinal series against the Okotoks Bisons in HJHL playoffs and are determined to sweep it tomorrow night in Okotoks.
Gens head coach Travis McMillan says the team is heading into their biggest test of the season on Tuesday night and a sweep would go a long way in making sure the players are well rested for the next series against either the Coaldale Copperheads or Medicine Hat Cubs.
"The fourth game is always going to be the most complicated to win. The Bisons aren't going to change their game. They play a heavy game and they're fast and they do have a lot of skilled players so we just have to make sure we match that and then beat it."
Yesterday's victory was the first game of this tightly-contested series determined in regulation with the winner coming from Harry Olser, assisted by Jordan Marks and Chris Sambrook, with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third. The Gens scored first but by halfway through the third it was tied up, 2-2.
The Gens opened the series in Okotoks on Feb. 22 with a 6-5 comeback overtime victory after trailing by two at the end of the second.
Saturday's win here in front of the largest, loudest and proudest hometown crowd of the season also went into overtime.
The Gens took a 2-0 lead on two goals by Jordan Fisher, the first unassisted, in game two here at the Cochrane Arena. After a scoreless second, the Bisons took control in the third by shutting down the neutral zone, stepping up their physical game and scoring twice to force overtime. The Gens' Ben Davison scored the winner eight minutes into overtime from Takuro Okada and Vance Wesley.
On Sunday, goalie Erik Garber got the call for his third straight start of the series. It was the first game the Bisons outshot the Gens and Garber answered the call by turning away 42 of 44 shots.
"He's been our most consistent goaltender, not to take away from our other two goaltenders--they're both very, very strong--he's just a steady kid you can always rely on. Even if he gets a bad goal against him he doesn't show signs of faltering."
The players are nursing a few bumps and bruises going into game four but pretty much everyone is at 100 per cent, says McMillan. River Ross remains out of the lineup going through concussion protocol he sustained in a Coaldale game late in the season. He's hoping to return to the lineup in the next series.
A win Tuesday night would mean the hometown crowd will have only witnessed one of the intense semifinal match ups at home. The schedule sees the Bisons playing three of the first four games at home before returning to Cochrane for game 5 and 6.
McMillan realizes this is disappointing for the Gens' loyal, but closing the door on the Bisons is the first priority.
"As much as I love to play at home and as much as I love our fans and the atmosphere that our rink brings, I would much rather end this series faster than to have it dragged out and then have to play a team like Medicine Hat or Coaldale, knowing full well that if our boys aren't rested or prepared you could fall short in the next series."
If necessary, game five starts at 7:45 p.m. at the Cochrane Arena on Thursday night. Game six would be played here on Mar. 2.
In other HJHL playoff action, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder downed Blackfalds four games straight, the Red Deer Vipers hold a 3-0 lead over the Mountainview Colts and the Copperheads are leading the Cubs 2-1.