The tears streaming out of Tory Caldwell’s eyes said it all – the 20-year-old goaltender, outside the dressing room with his heavy equipment on, digesting the Revelstoke Grizzlies loss Sunday night to the Osoyoos Coyotes that marked the end of the season and, for Caldwell, the end of his junior career.
“There’s 23 guys that just love each other and will do anything for each other,” he said. “A lot of things can happen in hockey and a lot of people are sacrificing. Just to not have that guy next to you that will do anything for you, it’s going to be tough.”
He wasn’t the only one. There was assistant captain Brooks Christiansen hugging his brother TJ and a sombre Brad Friedrich, who had just played his last game in Revelstoke after three seasons as a Grizzly.
“It hurts to lose,” Friedrich said. “It hurts more knowing that you can’t come back.”
The Grizzlies season came to an end Sunday night with a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes, falling in six games to the team that led the KIJHL throughout the regular season.
“We’re extremely proud of our guys. We gave everything we had,” said head coach Rylan Ferster. “We’re a pretty young team so to do what we did, we’re very proud of them.”
The series started off strong with an 8-2 win for Revelstoke in game one. “We just got some lucky bounces,” said Ferster.
In game two, the bounces went Osoyoos’ way, particularly in overtime when a bouncing puck went off defenceman Adam Dibella and into the net, letting the Coyotes tie the series at one.
The series moved to Revelstoke for games three and four and the teams split the two games. Osoyoos took game three 2-1 but Revelstoke came back to win game four 2-1, with Devon Hascarl scoring the winner in the second overtime while his team was shorthanded.
“That was the longest game and the biggest goal I ever scored,” he said after the game.
That was it for the Grizzlies. They lost game five 4-2 in Osoyoos to fall behind 3-2 in the series and face a must-win situation for the first time this season.
Osoyoos got on the board first when a pass in front deflected into the net off defenceman Tye Sanford’s stick. The Coyotes got another fortunate bounce a few minutes later when a wild shot by Ross Mancuso caromed off the end boards right to Steve Sasyniuk, who buried the puck into the open side to make it 2-0 Osoyoos after one.
Revelstoke battled back hard and cut the deficit to one goal just over two minutes in when Friedrich jammed home a loose puck. Ten minutes later Osoyoos made it 3-1 when Sasyniuk batted in his own rebound.
In the third period Revelstoke threw everything they could at Osoyoos, firing 26 shots on goaltender Kyle Laslo. Still, they were only able to beat him once when Bruce Silvera beat him with a shot from the point.
As Revelstoke continued to press, Caldwell held fort at the other end, making several big saves including a miraculous diving stop on Osoyoos’ Mark Miller with just over three minutes to go. He didn’t stop them all, and Thierry Martine scored the clincher with 1:14 left.
After the loss the dressing room was quiet. Players took their time getting changed and several sat on the ice against the end boards, chatting with each other.
“When you’re bonding with all the guys and knowing it’s done, you won’t be back, it’s kind of brutal but I guess it’s how it goes,” said Silvera.
For Christiansen, it was his third straight loss in the Conference finals.
“I think I’ve had a great run,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for better team mates throughout the years, better coaches, I’ve had good billets. I think I’ve had a pretty successful four years in the league.”
With the season over, the players will now be heading home. Ferster said he would be conducting exit interviews with each player and then it was a matter of getting ready for the team’s spring camp in early April.