“I think we’ve got more depth in scoring, we’re bigger and stronger, but I don’t want to say too much or read into anything.”
That’s what Sicamous Eagles coach Wayne March said before the series between his team and the Revelstoke Grizzlies. While the season series between the teams was pretty much even, March’s words proved prescient after his team completed a 4-1 victory over the Grizzlies in the opening round of the KIJHL playoffs last Thursday.
Throughout all five games, Sicamous – with many players returning from last year’s semi-final run – looked bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced.
“Sicamous proved to the more experienced team, the more deeper team than we were,” said coach Kevin Kraus following the series’ end. “We didn’t show up and in playoffs you need every guy to show up. We only had a handful guys show up for the whole series. It sucks. I was expecting a lot better effort.”
The teams split the opening two games in Sicamous, with Revelstoke goaltender Aaron Brandoli making 46 saves in game one to lead his team to a 2-1 lead. After that, the series was all Sicamous. In game two, the Eagles peppered Brandoli with 55 shots, winning 5-2.
The series returned to Revelstoke, last Monday and Tuesday, with the Eagles winning 6-3 and 6-2 respectively. Both games featured similar patterns, with the Eagles jumping out to early 4-0 leads and then cruising to victory, utilizing a strong forecheck to pressure the Grizzlies defence, keep them hemmed in their own zone and preventing them from mounting any sort of a comeback.
On Monday, Feb. 25, Brayden Taekema, Steven Powers, Dominick Hodges and Alex Dartnall scored first period goals for Sicamous before Brayden Beckley got Revelstoke on the board late in the frame. Beckley’s second goal of the game 16 seconds into the second period got the Grizzlies within two, but they were never able to get any closer. Brendan Devries scored for Sicamous five minutes later and Dylan Ossman countered for Revelstoke on the powerplay with 6:19 left in the period. In the third, Sicamous got the clinching goal from Jordan Harder and coasted to a 6-3 win.
Game four on Tuesday, Feb. 26, was much the same. Taekema, Devries and Quinn Rempel scored for the Eagles in the first, and Taekema scored his second of the game early in the third to once again put Sicamous up 4-0. Goals by Nathan Grieve and Nicholas Asasiewicz 48 seconds apart early in the third gave the Eagles an insurmountable 6-0 lead. There was a glimmer or hope when Austin Donaldson and Dylan Ossman responded quickly for Revelstoke. That was followed shortly after by a Grizzlies power play but once Sicamous killed that off, the game was sealed.
“We couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t pass, we couldn’t get to the net, we couldn’t break out, we couldn’t get a bounce in our own arena,” said Kraus following game four. “Everything seemed to go their way and they deserve it. They came to play the last three games and either we haven’t or they’re that good.”
For game five, the teams returned to Sicamous. As had been the case the previous three games, the Revelstoke Grizzlies once again found themselves behind early, with Corbin Marcotte and Devries scoring first period goals for the Eagles. This time, the Grizzlies responded, getting goals from Donaldson and Beckley to tie up the game before the midway point of the second period.
A late period collapse by the Grizzlies would end up being the difference. Devries, Dominick Hodges and Taekema scored 3:30 apart for Sicamous, giving the Eagles a 5-2 lead heading into the third.
Revelstoke was unable to mount a comeback, losing the game 5-2 and the series 4-1. Once again Sicamous outshot Revelstoke by a wide margin, this time 48-33.
“We expected to push Sicamous a lot more than we did,” said Kraus. “To only beat them once and never have a close game after the one win, we were disappointed in that because we all knew we were better than that. It was more embarassing, I think, than anything.”
With the season over, the players were each debriefed by coach Kraus and have dispersed back to their hometowns (except for those who call Revelstoke home).
“I told them to learn from this,” said Kraus. “Don’t just lose, remember how you feel right now and remember the reasons that we lost. Think of things you could have done differently and bring those to your game next year and come prepared to play better the whole hockey season.”
For Kraus, recruitment for next year will begin in April with the team’s spring camp in Vernon. After that, he’ll attend a number of Junior A camps and player showcases. He said this year was a learning experience for him.
“It was a trial and error year for me, never being a head coach before, you have to mistakes to get better,” he said. “I’m honestly disappointed that we didn’t get farther. I’ll take full blame for that, I will take the heat.”
The Revelstoke Grizzlies held its award banquet on Sunday. The winners were:
MVP: Austin Donaldson
Best defenceman: Andrew Standish
Best rookie: Brayden Beckley
Leading scorer: Austin Donaldson
Unsung hero: TJ Christensen
Most dedicated: Brendan Androsoff and Dallas Flockhart
Most improved: TJ Christensen
Most sportsmanlike: Jordan Furlane