BARRHEAD - It was not the result the Barrhead Bombers were hoping for to propel them into the Canadian-American Junior Hockey League (CAJHL) playoffs in Hinton, losing 10-2 to the Vegreville Vipers on March 25 in the last game of the season to end a three-game homestand.
The Bombers finished the regular season with two wins, an overtime loss and 42 losses to finish with five points at the bottom of the five-team league.
However, going into the playoff tournament in Hinton starting on March 28, the good news is everyone has the same record.
(Editor's note: The Bombers' lost their two playoff games 10-1 against the Vegreville Vipers on March 29 and 3-0 against Cold Lake Aeros on March 30.)
Head coach Mario Haase admits it has been a tough season for the club, noting the last 45 days or so have been especially tough as they lost multiple players who had to return home for family situations.
"So we had to work our tails off and try to work in some of our prospects a little sooner than we hoped," he said, adding in the last two weeks, the newcomers have filled in admirably, pointing to their game the night before, a 3-0 loss to Cold Lake.
"We played a really strong game, and with a bit more luck, we might have been able to make it a contest," he said.
Unfortunately, he said, with inexperienced players, consistency is an issue, and they just could not sustain it. "Tonight, it was the tale of two teams. For the first 25 minutes, we had one product, and for the rest of the game when we had another, with a lot of little mistakes being made mostly by our rookies, but even our vets."
At the end of the first period, it was 2-0 for the Vipers, with the road team outshooting them 18-10. In the first two minutes of the second, the teams exchanged goals, but then the Vipers started to pull away.
But, Haase said, if the Bombers play the same way they did the previous night and at the start of the game they should be at least competitive.
The first game they play is a rematch against Vegreville, on March 29, which was incidentally one of the teams they scored a win against, a 7-6 decision in early March, while their second game of the round-robin tournament is against Cold Lake on March 1.
As for plans for next season, he noted the Bombers will be holding an Easter weekend prospect camp in Edmonton.
"We've had a great response so far, so we hope to get a good first look at some of the players that might end up on the roster next season," he said.
Haase said he also hopes to return next season as coach and assistant general manager and looks forward to having the whole season to recruit.
"On the onset, we set out with a plan and I would like to see it through," he said, adding both he and team-owner Aly Virani knew they would be in tough this season. "When you start in a Junior 'A' hockey league with zero returning players, it is always going to be an uphill climb. And add to that, I had a short 18-day recruiting period from when I hired to come up with a team roster, I really welcome having four months to vet new players."
Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com