Two wins in the last two games of the regular season weren't enough for the Cochrane Generals to get a bye from the first round of playoffs in the Heritage Junior Hockey League, but it did give them a home-ice advantage.
Thursday night at 8 p.m. the Gens face off against the High River Flyers in game one of a three-game series. Game two goes in High River the following night and if a third game is necessary it returns to the Cochrane Arena on Sunday at 6 p.m.
A Friday night win against the Strathmore Wheatland Kings wasn't in the cards, otherwise, the Gens would be taking a break until Round 2 of the HJHL playoffs. The Kings were up 4-0 by the midway mark of the third and the Gens only goal came from Caden Chudleigh, assisted by Braden Bain and Carter Cugnet, on a powerplay. It didn't fuel a comeback and the Kings scored two more.
Friday night to Gens imploded against the Kings, but were able to regroup for two strong games against the Cubs, says head coach Travis McMillan.
"The Kings played their game," says McMillan. "They got our number early and it cumulated with us having to take that loss. As long as we can rebound from that, we can usually be okay which is exactly what happened on Saturday. The boys played great against Med Hat. That was a real big team win."
Here at the Cochrane Arena, Feb, 9, the Gens scored two unanswered goals in the second to break a 2-2 tie and go on to win 4-2.
In the second of a home-and-home series, Taylor Girard scored two huge goals to give the Gens a 4-3 overtime win. The lead jockeyed back and forth and Girard tied to game 3-3 with four minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime. He scored the game-winner unassisted four minutes into overtime.
In front of a hometown crowd of nearly 500, the Cubs came out blazing and outshot the Gens, 45-26. A stellar performance by Gens goalie Erik Garber saw him named the first star in Medicine Hat while Girard claimed second and Cubs veteran Tavin Straub was third.
The Gens finished the regular season third in the south with 27 wins and 11 losses, including two in overtime. Only four points separated first from third.
The Flyers come into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. They ended the regular season with 12 wins on 38 games, including an overtime win over the Gens early in the season.
The Gens are the healthiest they've been in some time and will only be down one player going into the first round. River Ross sustained a concussion against the Copperheads and is day-to-day. McMillan doesn't expect him back in the lineup until the second round.
Should the Gens advance from the first round they would likely be facing the Okotoks Bisons in a seven-game series that McMillan expects to be more physical than last year.
"It will be war. I have a sneaky suspicion it's going to be a little heavier this year and we need to understand that and be ready for it."
Strathmore and Medicine Hat are in the other south division series, with the Kings having home-ice advantage. Coaldale and Okotoks enter the playoffs in the second round.
In the north, Airdrie and Red Deer the bye, while the Mountainview Colts take on Ponoka and Stettler faces Blackfalds.