Warriors eliminated by Ice
The season came to an end for the Saddle Lake Warriors on Friday night at the Cold Lake Energy Centre, as they fell 8-4 to the Cold Lake Ice in Game 5 of the NEAJBHL semi finals, falling 4-1 in the best-of-seven-series.
“The boys were confident that we were going to go to Game 7. We thought that we were going to turn things around after Game 4, but apparently I guess not. But we beat Cold Lake the one game, and we’re only the second team in three years to beat Cold Lake (in the playoffs),” said Warriors Coach Ben Ross. “That kind of got the boys fired up and I was hoping that would turn things around and we could go to Game 7 and possibly take them out and get into the championship round.”
In many ways the Warriors defied expectations, as the team has gone through a great deal adversity, losing head coach Terry Ewasiuk early in the season and dealing with short benches due to injuries and commitment issues, only to end up sweeping the Killam Wheat Kings in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We had a good season. It seemed like we were 50-50 going through the season, but the boys were turning it around in the end. We came back flying and picked up a few big W’s to end off the season,” said Ross. “Coming into the playoffs the boys were a bit nervous but kept their mind in hockey game mode and said let’s take it to them, lets play hard and come out swinging. Sure enough, we took the first series four straight.”
Eric Paterson, who scored two goals in Friday’s season-ending Game 5, commended the efforts of his assistant coaches, Ross and Dallas Jackson, in filling the void left behind when Ewasiuk left the team.
“It sucked really bad when Terry left because he was a really good hockey guy, he was here when they won one of the championships here in Saddle Lake,” said Paterson. “Dallas was a new coach here this year and he really stepped up to the plate, and Ben coached last year and just kept going like he was last year.”
Paterson added while the Warriors were ousted by the Ice in five games, it was important for the team to get at least one victory over the Cold Lake, who will enter the finals eying its fourth straight NEAJBHL championship.
“We had really close games with (Cold Lake) all season, we lost to them twice 4-3. We were battling against them all regular season, so it was really good for our team to get that W in overtime in our own home barn,” he said. “It was good for the fans and the whole organization.
The Warriors will now part ways with overage players Barry Partridge, Dillon Alexis, Dylan Maton and Jojo White, but Ross said the impact felt from those players will likely carry over into next season.
“They contributed a lot, compared to last year’s overage players. They showed the younger players to stick it out into the corners, dig deep, play the game right and play with your head up. They gave a lot of the younger players a lot of players, how to break out properly and how to keep the momentum going,” said Ross. “We have a couple of other guys that won’t be returning because they’re going to be stepping it up to the next level . . . I’d say we’re going to lose half the guys, and half the guys will be back next year.”
Paterson added he feels confident moving forward with the Warriors, as the half that will be returning are a solid group of young players.
“We have a young group here. Lots of us are just first or second years in Junior B, so next year we’ll have a lot of the core guys back,” said Paterson. “As long as we just keep going in the summer, keep working out and doing dry land we’ll be able to come back ready to go for next season.”