The Cochrane Generals junior B hockey team officially kicked off their 2018-19 Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) campaign when they took on the Mountainview Colts in a pair of preseason contests on Sept. 8 and 9.
Cochrane, who fielded a mix and match squad during both games to get a look at the potential members of this year’s Generals, took both games over the Colts. The first contest ended 4-3 in overtime and the second 5-1 the following night. Newly-named head coach, Travis McMillan, was quite pleased with how his team performed over the course of the two games and said a number of rookies stood out with their play.
“I thought the first one went pretty well, just as much as the second game went. Coming out with two wins in a weekend is always nice, especially against a team that’s as gritty and hardworking as Mountainview is … the first game that we had there was basically a roster full of rookies, we only had four veterans lace up and then we had nine (veteran players) guys suiting up for the game as well,” McMillan said.
“There was a little bit of contrast, in the first game you kind of want to see how the rookies can read and react when they’re basically playing a complete junior team … Mountainview only has two or three cuts left remaining. For the most part, the boys held their own and in that first game, it was something of a mishmash of the lineup and the guys haven’t gained any chemistry, but when Sunday rolled around the guys had a better grasp and a better idea of what to expect so they rebounded quite nicely.”
“There’s been a few really nice surprises to say the least but the guys that we got from the Midget AA Bow Valley Timberwolves, those guys have been a fantastic surprise. Cade Chudleigh and Ben Davidson, we have had our eye on those guys for three or four months now and we were looking at them to see how they could handle the pressure of playing junior. There’s been three or four other guys who have stepped up and shown that they can play in this league.”
With the age limit restrictions in play, there is always constant change in junior hockey and the Generals are no different. The team lost its top three scorers in Talus Hume (71 points), Slater Ransom (67 points) and defenceman Austin Keller (47 points) while also losing stay-at-home defenceman Will Gretton (13 points) due to graduation. The foursome of players combined for nearly 50 per cent of the team’s offence last season and McMillan is looking for some new players to step into more prominent roles.
“Those are four irreplaceable guys. You can’t really say, ‘Hey. How am I going to approach this situation with losing two captains, Will being one of our top defencemen and Slater being the goal scorer that he is’ … it’s difficult and you’re never going to be able to replace them,” McMillan said.
“You can’t find a clone of one of those four guys so my approach to replacing those players is to find guys that will fill in in the aggregate. So if you can get two guys that can score 25 goals each, then you’re going to be set or get a defenceman that can score 10 to 15 goals and add 30 or 40 assists, you can fill a one player spot with two or three players. The chemistry with the guys is gelling really well so that will hopefully help yield a better result and help put wins up on the board.”
The Generals were also dealt a serious blow when the team found out they’d be losing newly-named captain, Colton Wong, who took a job as an on-call firefighter at a rig in Whitecourt thus making him unavailable for the season. McMillan once again reiterated that this year’s crop of talent will have to step up in order to replace the production and leadership qualities that Wong brought over his last three years to the team.
“Losing Colton is obviously a dent in our line up but, at the same time, Colton was good before he was a team player, everyone looked up to him, he could hit and he could score. He’s an all around good hockey player … going into this year knowing Colton wasn’t going to be returning, you kind of have to look to your returning players to replace him as well,” McMillan said.
“Players like Brandon Aab, Chris Sambrook, Harry Osler, all those guys are great hockey players and would make decent captains and assistants. As I’ve stated before, you basically have to replace the players you lose with two or three guys and essentially build a leadership core with those returning players.”
The Generals will continue their preseason action with a pair of games this weekend against the Airdrie Techmation Thunder on Sept. 14 in Airdrie and Sept. 15 back in Cochrane.