The look on Reid Blinkhorn’s face said it all. Sitting at the end of the bench, the Grizzlies captain and a veteran of four seasons with the team was struggling to hold back the tears.
“It hurts,” said the 20-year-old defenceman following the Revelstoke Grizzlies 4-0 loss to the Sicamous Eagles in game seven in the early hours of Sunday morning. Fellow veteran defenceman Lucas Hildebrand came to sit beside him. “I don’t know,” Blinkhorn added. “No words can really describe the feeling.”
The loss came after the Revelstoke Grizzlies rallied from a 3-1 series to deficit to force game seven. It was a game that was delayed several times, first from Saturday to Sunday, then from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. as the Eagles bus navigated the long route via Vernon and Nakusp to Revelstoke. More than 400 fans eagerly awaited the start of the game at the Revelstoke Forum.
Finally, the game began just before midnight on Sunday, Mar. 4, and ended after 2 a.m., with Sicamous taking the series 4-3.
The series began with the Eagles looking like the first place team and the conference champion Grizzlies the fourth place squad. Sicamous upset Revelstoke twice at the Forum to go back home up 2-0. Grizzlies coach Randy Quakenbush said the team was “very prepared,” but he added: “First two games, I think the level of intensity was higher than what the players believed it would be and there was a few momentum changes that were difficult to overcome early in those games.”
In Sicamous, Revelstoke was buoyed by the return of goaltender Ethan Wood and won game three 4-3 last Monday. The Grizzlies scored four times in the first period and Wood made 29 saves in the win. Game four saw the Grizzlies woes continue as they were thumped 6-1 behind a hat trick by the Eagles’ Brendon Wilde.
With Sicamous up 3-1 in the series, the teams returned to Revelstoke for game five on Thursday night at the Forum. It was a back-and-forth affair that wasn’t decided until Michael Roberts scored the winner 34 seconds into overtime.
Game six in Sicamous saw Grizzlies’ star rookie Cole Sanford score four times to lead Revelstoke to a 5-2 win. Quakenbush said it was the team’s “willingness to compete and our belief in our group” that led to the turn-around.
That set the stage for game seven. Originally scheduled for Saturday, it was delayed until Sunday when avalanches closed down the Trans-Canada Highway. It was delayed until almost midnight as Sicamous drove the long way to Revelstoke.
Then the game was delayed even more when Sicamous’ Corbin Marcotte broke the glass with a shot six minutes into the first. The game was scoreless until late in the second period when Connor Buick fired a wrist shot off Ethan Wood’s blocker and into the net to make it 1-0 Eagles.
Sicamous kept the momentum going into the third period when Jagger Bowles scored at 17:32 to make it 2-0. Less than five minutes later, Tarren Cavanaugh made it 3-0 with a shot from the slot.
After that, Sicamous defended its lead with the help from goaltender Jack Surgenor, who made several big saves, including one on a Cole Sanford breakaway and several on a Grizzlies power play. With just under under two minutes to go, Sicamous sealed the victory with an empty net goal.
“Sometimes the best team doesn’t always win,” said Quakenbush following the game. “I give Sicamous credit for a good effort. I think that we just ran out of luck when it came to getting pucks in the net throughout the series.”
The victory means the Eagles go on to face the Kamloops Storm in the Doug Birks division finals. The Grizzlies were to undergo exit interviews before heading back to their various homes.
“I let them know as a coaching staff we were proud of everything they did all year,” said Quakenbush when asked what he told the players following the loss. “They battled hard, there was no quit. It was a great group – they never turned on each other once. They overcame a lot of adversity and they could be proud of the things they did accomplish. Winning a conference and winning a division is no minor feat.”
Quakenbush also thanked his coaching staff of Kevin Kraus and Darren Komonoski.
Captain Blinkhorn thanked the fans and people of Revelstoke for their support. “I had the best four years of my life here.”
Hey Revelstoke Grizzles fans, do you have any messages you’d like to share with the boys about their 2011-12 campaign? Any thanks you’d like to share with them? Log into Facebook and leave your comments below.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Kris Drott was in net for the Sicamous Eagles in game seven. In fact, it was his backup, Jack Surgenor that tended nets.