The University of Saskatchewan Huskies saw their season come to an end Sunday night after a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Dinos in the third and deciding game of their Canada West semi-final playoff series.
For the second straight season the Huskies exit the Canada West playoffs in the semi-final. A year ago it was the Manitoba Bisons knocking off the hockey Dogs in three games and this year it's the Dinos.
The Huskies' season was up and down. The team got off to a so-so start taking an 8-6 record into the break but were hot out of the gate in 2011 going 8-1 in their first nine games to start the new year. New Christmas additions Matt Delahey and Derek Hulak appeared to fit into the line-up perfectly and the team was cruising. Their hot play had many in the conference picking the Huskies as the team to beat down the stretch.
The Huskies' five game winning streak was met by disaster. The team suffered three straight losses and only one win in their last five games heading into the post season as they fell from second to third in the Canada West standing losing home ice advantage in the process.
Although the Huskies won three of four meetings with Calgary during the regular season it was the Dinos who took two of three when it mattered most.
"In Canada West, when you only get a three game series, you don't have a lot of time to recover from things," commented Huskies' second year forward Brennan Bosch. "That first game I thought we played a real strong second period and were all over them and kind of took the game away and then we just had a little let down for maybe a couple of minutes and they kind of buried us. If we could have hung on and (won) that (first game) I think that would have been a big turning point in the series and in a quick series those things are really important."
Calgary took game one of the series on Mar. 4 by a score of 4-2 scoring three goals in 1:29 midway through the third period to take a quick 1-0 series lead. The Huskies would bounce back with a 3-2 win in game two on Mar. 5 before dropping the third and deciding game a night later to end their season.
The Huskies boast a strong group of returning players heading into next season including the teams top five leading scorers from this season. The team's top line should remain intact with Steven DaSilva, Kyle Bortis and captain Kyle Ross all eligible to return to the team in the fall.
Saying goodbye will be fifth year forward Jason Wagar. While Wagar is the Huskies' only fifth year player, it is expected that both forward Steven Gillen and defenceman Matt Swaby won't be back next year either as the two are set to graduate from the U of S this spring. Swaby and Gillen aside, only Ross and defenceman Jesse Zetariuk will be in their final year of eligibility next season giving the Huskies a very bright future looking forward.
"We've had a lot of the same guys for the last two years," noted Bosch, "and we've had pretty disappointing ends (to our season) the last two years where we felt we had teams that definitely could do some damage and we just haven't got it done so we just have to realize that it takes a lot and it's pretty tough to win in the playoffs.
"I think it starts in the regular season. You can't let games slip and you have to situate yourself in the best spot possible."
Head coach Dave Adolph has positioned this team to contend for the next several years and with the University of Saskatchewan hosting the University Cup in 2013 and 2014 this team has the talent to make a serious run at a championship the next three seasons and beyond.
A total of 15 players from this year's roster will still be eligible to return when the Huskies' host the second of two University Cups in 2014 including both goaltenders David Reekie and Ryan Holfeld.
For the present day Huskies it will be a summer wondering what could have been but also one of optimism thinking about what this team could accomplish 2011-2012 with such a large core of the team returning in the fall.
"It's pretty tough to pin point (what went wrong). You knew the guys wanted it this year after the way it ended last year but we've got to find an extra little effort or (some) timely goals to get us past this point that we're struggling with right now."