The perfect season wasn’t meant to be.
After winning the CIHL championship last week over the Stampeders, the Steelheads travelled back to Williams Lake to take on a few of their league rivals and Fort Nelson in the Coy Cup.
Perhaps the Steelheads were suffering a championship hangover, but they looked like a shadow of their former selves.
“It was definitely not what we were expecting,” captain Darryl Young said.
“We were bad defensively and we couldn’t score.”
Their first game of the tournament, against the Terrace River Kings, was their best.
It was a tight-checking, physical game. Terrace led 2-1 in the third period, until, with just under five minutes left, the Steelheads tied it at two. They had a chance to win it with the seconds ticking down, but hit the crossbar.
Overtime settled nothing .
“We battled hard and had a chance to win it, but fell short. It was a good game and I think a tie was probably good for both teams,” head coach Tom DeVries said.
Up next, a rematch of the CIHL final against Williams Lake.
The Stampeders went up early and often, spotting themselves a 4-0 lead before the Steelheads knew what hit them.
It looked like the Steelheads might make a game of it in the second period, but Stampeders’ goaltender Justin Foote was unbeatable.
They added three more goals in garbage time for the 7-0 win.
“The game was actually a lot closer than the score indicated,” DeVries said.
“It could have gone either way for awhile, but we let it get away from us.
“We took this one on the chin,” DeVries said.
“But everyone was good about it. So be it.”
In spite of the loss, and only having one point through their first two games, the Steelheads had a chance to move on to the semifinal with a tie or a win against the Fort Nelson Yetis on Friday night.
Again, they couldn’t find the back of the net.
Fort Nelson scored two quick goals and coasted to a 4-0 win.
“It was another close game,” DeVries said. “We had chances like crazy, we just couldn’t score.”
They only managed two goals in three games, after getting shut out by Williams Lake and Fort Nelson.
“I think it was a bit of bad luck and, maybe the guys were satisfied with winning the league,” DeVries said.
“That was a big thing for us.”
In the Coy Cup final, the Stampeders took it to the River Kings, 6-2, behind Nathan Zurak’s hat-trick. The game drew more than 1,000 fans.
“It was a really well run tournament,” DeVries said. “They had some huge crowds. It was a great atmosphere.”
That’s it for the Steelheads’ season. They’ll host a banquet and awards night at some point in the coming weeks, but no date has been set.
Of note: Steelheads forward Kirk Meaver suffered a head injury during the Steelheads’ loss to Williams Lake.
He was immediately taken to hospital, where he had surgery to remove pressure on his brain.
Meaver is recovering well, though he is expected to stay in Kamloops hospital for the next month.
Of note: Rumours abound that the CIHL may have trouble getting enough teams to form a league next year.
Houston, Lac La Hache and Williams Lake are considering pulling out, which would force Quesnel out because of their location.
Nothing has been made official yet, and won’t be until early-to-mid summer.