Following their 4-3 loss to the Kindersley Klippers on Saturday, the RBC Royal Bank Cup host Grande Prairie Storm took some time to compose themselves before emerging from the dressing room for post-game interviews.
Having held 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the game, the Storm players had shocked looks on their faces after the Klippers battled back to tie the game and win thanks to a Casey Lee goal with 35.5 seconds left in the third period.
" Right now, I’m at a loss for words," said Grande Prairie forward Mark Szott, who had two goals in the game for the Storm. "We had a really special group of guys. There’s got to be a winner and a loser. We went out today and we tried our best. That’s all you can ask for. It didn’t go our way, but we had a great year."
Grande Prairie Storm coach and general manager Fran Gow emerged from the dressing room about an hour after the game ended to address the media.
" It’s a pretty emotional room right now," Gow explained. "We needed some time together. This has been a long year for us. We’ve accomplished a lot of things this year and I think it was important for us to share that with each other and to remind ourselves that in the big picture this organization (and) coaching staff are very proud of these players."
For Szott, it was his second crack at the National Junior A Championship title. He was a member of the Camrose Kodiaks, who lost 3-1 in the final of the 2003 RBC Royal Bank Cup to the Humbolt Broncos.
" It’s pretty upsetting right now, but the sun’s going to come up tomorrow," said the 20-year-old veteran whose AJHL career came to an end with the loss to the Klippers. "We did something this year. We went out this year and we did win the first Alberta Junior Hockey League championship for this organization. It’s a very special thing."
Gow complemented his players on their exceptional season.
" It was a tremendous run that we had within our league and when you get to this stage of the game, there’s a lot of good hockey clubs and there’s a very fine line between winning and losing," he said. "This is a tremendous event and to be part of this was a great experience for our guys. You can’t measure the lessons that you learn. You can’t measure it by the wins and losses. There’s so much more valuable things that they took from this tournament and the experience that they had all year."
Earlier in the day on semifinal Saturday, the Nepean Raiders also found themselves on the losing side of the ledger. The Raiders faced a determined Aurora Tigers squad and came out on the wrong end of a 7-2 decision.
" We tried but it wasn’t in the cards for us today," said Nepean coach Chris Byrne. "That’s the way it goes. You always want to win, but only one team’s going to win in the end. We played some great hockey. It’s been a long year and the guys have just been unbelievable. They played very, very strong. They’re a very special group of guys."
Raiders captain Brennan Sarazin, who led his squad with four goals and one assist in the tournament, said it was tough to lose after battling so hard all year to get to the RBC Royal Bank Cup semifinals.
" That’s the way it happens sometimes," Sarazin said. "We’re very proud of our team. It was a great year
for our team and we enjoyed every bit of it."
After the experience, the 19-year-old Sarazin warned not to count out the Raiders next season.
" We’ve got some guys leaving but we’ve got a young team," he said. "We’ve got a good core of young guys coming back. We’ll have another kick at the can next year and hopefully we can make it this far because it’s a great experience – a lifetime experience and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly."