There were a few tears Thursday as the Regina Pats cleaned out their lockers and said goodbye at the Brandt Centre.
The season came to a heartbreaking end on Tuesday when the team lost to the Red Deer Rebels 2-1 in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series.
“That’s the tough part about sports, or hockey anyway, is it’s like ‘bang’ like you fall off a cliff sort of ending,” head coach John Paddock said Thursday morning.
He says his team is still reeling from the loss where in the third period, the Rebels managed just four shots on goal, but one of them was the game winner.
“This last series is really strong in our minds. It’s a little bit hard to get over because we believed we were going to beat them,” he said.
For 20-year-old Colby Williams, who played his last game in the WHL on Tuesday, it was a hard pill to swallow.
“You don’t really notice how hard it is when it ends until it’s over. I was just thinking we’re going to get this goal we’re going to get this next goal, and then as soon as the buzzer went you look at the clock and it’s just, that’s it.”
The Pats and Williams decided to bring him back on the ice at the end of the season, despite not being fully healed from a hand injury.
“I’m glad I decided to come back … and have a heck of a run with the guys,” Williams said. “It was a lot of fun.”
In the off-season, Williams will work on his rehab and recovery. The Washington Capitals prospect will also head down to the U.S. to see a few playoff games. But he admits after spending his entire career win the Pats system, next year will be an adjustment.
“This chapter of my life is over and it’ll be tough not coming back next year.”
Despite losing Williams and fellow 20-year-olds Cole Sanford and Aaron Macklin, who by all accounts were difference makers for the team this year, the players are looking forward to what’s to come.
“I think everyone took big steps this year, right through the line up,” said WHL top scorer and Pats forward Adam Brooks. “The future is looking bright.“
“We’re really excited about next year,” Paddock said adding the team is on track with his goals, not just to win a championship, but to have a perpetual contender.
“[The plan] is to have a championship program and have the chance to have a championship team within that.”