By Darren Lum
Sports like life doesn’t always have happy endings.
The Haliburton Wolves inaugural season in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League didn’t end with a miracle on ice or much of anything to cheer about except that there was a season and a junior team to get behind.
It ended with a thud in the opening round of the playoffs. A severe dose of reality really. It lost three games straight in the best-of-five.
Facing the second place North division Temsicaming Titans who won the head-to-head regular season series the Wolves started with an uphill battle to be competitive with a short bench – 12 players to 20 for the Titans in the team’s last home game this past Thursday.
Despite the home crowd’s attempt to be supportive as it has all season the Wolves lost in anticlimactic fashion 13-1.
Within the first two minutes the Titans scored a pair quieting the crowd and putting the home team into a hole they would not be able to dig out of despite valiant efforts of the whole team.
A lone goal was scored by relative newcomer – who came partway through the season – Brandon Shecapio-Blacksmith. The team was just down 6-1 heading into the third. In the final frame the Titans took over and ran away with it.
The box score only tells part of the story as it often does.
Up until the midway point of the third period the Wolves played with pride and showcased the kind of character they have displayed most of the season particularly after the halfway point. They didn’t quit.
This isn’t lost on the team’s second coach of the year Josh Shaw.
“Same thing I say day to day. There’s no quit in them and every shift for the most part they gave me a 100 per cent. They work hard and that was all I ever asked of them it’s just to work” he said.
Captain and local player Nick Hunter said this season was an “awesome experience.”
“I’ve made a lot of friends from around the world and had a blast with them. One of my favourite moments was my first goal. I had a breakaway. I was so nervous my knees were shaking but I scored and it was the best feeling in the world” he said.
He added his 11-point game at home was another hightlight.
Hunter said he welcomes another season to play for Haliburton.
Shaw said most games this season the team had a dozen or less players when the team played.
“It was just a shame not to have amount of bodies that I would need to really coach a junior team. It is what it is. You know with a full team all year it would have been a different story” he said.
He adds the Titans had seven healthy scratches to their dozen.
“That’s tough. They’re a really good hockey team too” he said.
Although the record doesn’t show it the team improved over the season he said.
As much as he taught the players he said he learned from them.
Shaw isn’t certain at this point about the team returning but is interested to be back next season as the team’s coach if they want him.
“As far as I know it’s a go for next year but if it’s here next year and they want me back I’m here” he said.
In the off times from games and practices there were many players of the team who were often seen playing shinny on Head Lake.
They might not have been able to raise the Russell Cup above their heads in triumph but what they will always carry with them is an experience in the Highlands like nothing they will ever share again.
Years from now the goals and the assists will be forgotten. The spirit-killing losses won’t even register. It will be the friendships and the way they feel about the entire junior hockey experience that will remain in their hearts whether its the road trips in the dead of night or the family that came a few kilometres down the road or several states away to watch them play.