Warriors fall to Cold Lake
The season is over for the Saddle Lake Warriors.
After a hard-fought seven game series with the Vegreville Rangers, the Warriors came up short against the Cold Lake Ice, falling in four straight games to meet the end of their post-season run.
The Warriors failed to put a stop to the momentum of the Cold Lake Ice, who moved to 8-0 in the post season with their sweep of Saddle Lake, ending with a 12-1 final in Game 4.
The Warriors will now part with four overage players, Cole Steinhauer, Jordan Moosewah, Patrick Gladue and Talon Cardinal, but are hopeful for the future as they boast a lot of young talent.
“I think next year when we come back we’ll be a little stronger right out of the gate. That’s going to make a big difference for the overall season, and we’re going to be looking to go another step deeper in the playoffs next year,” Warriors general manager Winston Lapatak said, adding that planning for next season starts immediately.
“I know we’ve got a couple scouting trips planned. We’re going to the Okanogan to look at some players at the end of March.”
Lapatak said the Warriors were thankful to have a captain like Cole Steinhauer, who spent four full years on the team, three as captain.
“He’s really been a strong role model and kind of a poster boy for the hockey club over the last few years,” Lapatak said. “We’re graduating quite a unique young man who really did quite a respectful job helping the coaches and the management guide a bunch of young kids.”
Steinhauer said, “it was a fun ride” being captain of the Warriors for three seasons, and noted the end was a little bittersweet.
“There are a lot of mixed emotions. I just tried to take it in,” he said. “I think the people of Saddle Lake are happy for me.”
Head coach Darryl Buck said he was happy with the progression that he and his staff of coaches made with the team in their first year behind the bench, and was proud of the way that the Warriors ended off their season.
“It was good. We worked together, we learned by talking a lot and communicating. It’s been an experience and as far as the team, we got stronger at the end of the year,” he said. “That last period down 10-0, I just wanted them to go out with class . . . at 10-0 anybody could have just said, heck with it, but they took it respectfully and that showed a lot of character.”
Buck added that while the team currently has many talented young players like goaltender Dyllon Laboucan, he would be happy to see his players make the jump to Junior A next season.
“I really hope that (Laboucan) gets a chance at Junior A, and he can make it there,” Buck said. “Laboucan, Dallas Desjarlais and all those boys, I hope they go to Junior A camp this next year and try.”
The star of the playoffs for the Warriors was undoubtedly Laboucan, who stole Game 7 from under the feet of the Rangers to lift his team to the second round.
“It was a great season, especially being a starter in Junior B for the first time,” Laboucan said, adding that he will take Lapatak’s advice and attempt to crack a Junior A roster next season. “I’ll be going back to the NCAA showcase camp that I was at last year.”
Laboucan said he was proud of his team’s performance this season, but spoke highly of the competitors that ended it.
“(The Ice) are a great team,” he said. “They know how to move the puck around and they communicate really well.”
The Cold Lake Ice will now face off against the Wainwright Bisons in the NEAJBHL finals. Wainwright recently eliminated the Killam Wheat Kings in four straight games.
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