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Gens have room to improve at mid-term report

It’s been a long journey for the Cochrane Generals over the last 12 months. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit of a downhill trip.
Cochrane Generals forward Jason Labelle looks for someone in scoring position from behind the Strathmore Wheatland Kings net in Heritage Junior Hockey League play Nov. 30 at
Cochrane Generals forward Jason Labelle looks for someone in scoring position from behind the Strathmore Wheatland Kings net in Heritage Junior Hockey League play Nov. 30 at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. The Generals downed Strathmore 6-4.

It’s been a long journey for the Cochrane Generals over the last 12 months.

Unfortunately, it’s been a bit of a downhill trip.

Sitting second in Heritage Junior Hockey League standings (16-4-2) at this point last season, the Generals are still struggling to find their form, currently 7-9-2 halfway through 2012-13. They are fifth in the league’s Southern Division standings.

But this is a rebuilding year of sorts, complete with a new head coach in Ken Soloski.

“When we started the season we were young, naive, and we didn’t really know what to expect,” Soloski assessed following a 6-4 home win Nov. 30 over the Strathmore Wheatland Kings. “Recently, in the last 5-6 games, we’ve started to apply ourselves on what it takes to win.”

Doubtless, there were huge skates to fill for departing overage, go-to forwards like Jesse Adshead, Jonny Pictin, Darren Schmautz and Riley Boothby.

But offence hasn’t been the issue this season, as the Generals are pouring in an average of five goals a game and doubled High River 8-4 in their Dec. 1 tilt.

It’s the back end, and in goal, where the team appears to be grappling with performance and personnel concerns.

“It hasn’t all been goalies,” Soloski insists. “We’ve given up an awful lot of chances to score. But we’ve also let in some bad goals.”

So with the midterm upon us, and the Generals riding a three-game win streak, it’s time to hand out the grades. Mom and dad may be a little disappointed with the results, but they should know it’s not for a lack of trying.


Marching in line behind Dana Boothby last season, Ken Soloski took the reins on the bench this season, his first as a head coach in the Heritage Junior Hockey League. Boothby is still on the bench helping out, but this is Soloski’s team now.

“In my own opinion, we’re a little behind where we wanted to be,” Soloski self-assessed his first 18 games as Generals’ head coach. “But we’re progressing.”

His coaching style is more animated compared to Boothby’s reserved demeanor, but junior hockey is a loud and proud game. So Soloski’s style fits the sport. But does it fit the players, many of whom developed under Boothby and may still be adjusting to Soloski’s more vocal coaching style?

Rookie defenceman Craig Packard thinks so.

“Really good stuff,” the 17-year-old says. “Dana and Ken are both really good coaches.”

Grade: C


Having lost productive lamp-lighters like Jonny Pictin (31 goals last season) and Riley Boothby (28 goals), the Generals are still torching opposing netminders for five goals per game. Kris Keller has moved up the order from last season and has 17 goals this season, and new-addition Taylor House has 16. Last season’s team points leader, Jason Labelle, has pumped in just eight goals so far, but he feasted on Pictin’s production last season and is still averaging well over point per game right now.

“I think we’ve improved a lot,” says team-captain Labelle. “I think we’re a better team than our record shows. It’s just going to go up from here.”

Forwards Ian McRae, Tyson Soloski and Alex Colborne are contributing balance to an offensive group which, like last season, is the team’s strength. With more constant pressure on the puck from his forwards in their own end, coach Soloski won’t have much to worry about.

Playing 12 of 18 games on the road to open the campaign didn’t make it any easier.

“It’s really tough to go on the road for that long,” Labelle offers. “It’s nice to be at home and have a home crowd. The more the merrier.”

Grade: B


Returnees Nick Borody, Kashtin Gordon and Matt Krigel are being asked to lead a young defence that is adjusting to the rigors of the junior game. Three Gens rookies – Logan Brown, Brydon Beston and Craig Packard – have all advanced from the Bow Valley Midget AA Timberwolves and are catching up to the pace and ferocity of the junior game. Two more d-men, Austin Keller and Sayer McDonald, are also new to junior this season.

“A lot bigger players. A lot more intensity in the games,” observes Packard, who is putting in extra work to adjust. “More focus, harder practising and working out.”

While not totally having their way with the young Gens’ blueline corps, opposing forwards have been leaning on them as much as possible, knowing there are some young guys still finding their way.

“It’s a team defensive issue,” Soloski insists. “We’re working a lot with our forwards to help out. We’re not covering our guys. We’re leaving a lot of guys open in our own zone. It’s something we’ve been working on.”

If this group can hold it together in the second half, and remains intact next season, the next assessment should be far more positive.

Grade: C



It’s been a revolving door in the crease this season, with Matt Shawchuk, Myles Magnusson, Forrest Ayearst and Brady Markham all getting looks in the first half – and fishing a lot of pucks out of the cage. On average, the Generals have allowed half a goal more goal per game than they’ve scored. Magnusson, Markham and Ayearst are now gone, with Shawchuk and rookie Bruce Corrigal sharing starts. Rookie Ayearst saw some time but, according to coach Soloski, was unable to commit full time to the team due to work commitments.

“We’ve solidified our goalies by committing to two guys,” Soloski said of Shawchuk and Corrigal. “We went through six or seven guys we really looked at and about three weeks ago we decided to commit, and we’ve committed to two guys. Now we’re building their confidence and they’re starting to play well and the team is starting to play well in front of them. So we think goaltending is going to be OK.”

As the lone returnee, Shawchuk should have the inside track to the starter’s role, but he’ll want to boost that .884 save percentage and get a little more help from his defence in the second half. If the Gens can’t get any traction in the second half, rookie stoppers may get longer looks down the stretch. Grade: C-

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