The Cochrane Generals completed their return to Cochrane Arena this afternoon to advance to the HJHL North Final against the Red Deer Vipers.
Trailing 3-2 in the series, the People won 7-1 Friday at Rocky Mt. House and were dominant again this afternoon in their 6-1 win in front of 600 fans.
The People have played their smartest hockey in the series the last two games. They controlled the middle and limited the Rams’ time in the People zone. When the Rams got shot, Davyn LaRocke was there to watch the fort. Much of the game was played in the Rams side, with goaltender Zaiden Hansen hammering in 48 shots.
“When you play like that, it’s hard to lose,” Peoples head coach Kurtis Jones said. “They deserved to win at Rocky, and they deserved to win this game.”
People captain Patrick Forde admits there have been some frustrating moments on the show.
“We dig deep,” Forde says. “I think that’s the most important thing. It would have been very easy to go to Rocky and say we had a hell of a season, a better chance next year, but we didn’t. We came out tough, and when we won that game we knew we could win game seven, so a very resilient club.”
Riley Hopper scored the first of his two goals after just four minutes. Forde made it 2-0 halfway through the first.
Jordan Marks scored one just 58 seconds from second. A major penalty against Gens Zac Fulton saw Nick Jervis score the Rams’ only goal to end the second period, 3-1.
Hopper, Ryan Davis and Zach Stewart completed the scoring.
Diago Joelho started his season with midget team Timberwolves and was called upon to play the key role of centering Forde and Tristan Ripplinger.
“He’s a smart player, and we were missing that face-off player. He’s a solid hockey player,” Jones said.
Joelho has been playing center since he was 6 years old. As an affiliate, he appeared in six games and has been training with the People for a few months.
“It’s really special to be part of a top team that you go out and play with. To win the seventh game like this in front of the city… super fun.”
Line regular center Kyle Crosbie is day-to-day.
Much to the delight of People fans, it was a hard-fought series against the “Cinderella team” of the North Division playoffs. Attendance continued to climb as the series progressed.
The Rams upset the Sylvan Lake Wranglers in a three-game series that went to double overtime twice. Against the People, they held the series lead twice and came within a game of taking it.
“It’s huge for our organization,” Rams head coach Wendell Mason said. “I think the guys who saw us upset Sylvan and then come here to go to the limit have a different view of our organization.”
“We got to where we wanted to be, but once you get there you want to go a little further. Unfortunately we didn’t do that today.”
The Rams are a team to watch. He has a solid core of 18- and 19-year-old players who are just getting their feet wet in junior hockey and the HJHL. Only two will age and they have two 20 year olds.
Dates for the Gens-Viper North Division Championship Series are expected to be announced shortly.
“They’re a lot like our team and they’re well trained,” Jones said of the Vipers. “We have to keep that momentum from games six and seven. If we play that way we should be ready to go.”