The Wheatland Kings' season came to an end on Sunday night when they lost 7-3 to the Okotoks Carstar Bisons, wrapping up a 4-0 series sweep for Okotoks in the second round of the playoffs.
It was a battle from start to finish, with the entire team giving it their all every minute they were on the ice. While all the players worked hard, this was exemplified by goalie Landen Brassard, who played arguably his best hockey of the season. Facing 182 shots in four games and saving 163 of them, he had a save percentage higher than 90%, which Head Coach Doug Raycroft was impressed with.
"Landen got hot there in the playoffs and he's always been a playoff performer. He really ups his game for playoffs and stuff, he's always been great that way, and he sure came through for us with great goaltending in the playoffs," Raycroft said.
Brassard is one of four players who will no longer be with the Kings next season, as he, along with Chase Clayton, Jaycob Masciangelo, and Kyle Feick have all aged out. While it's disappointing to end the year on a loss, Raycroft said they should be proud of their effort and cherish the good memories they made with the Kings during their careers. For Raycroft, one of his highlights of the year was seeing the team rewarded for their effort, as the early half of the season was riddled with losses but the team kept working hard to fix their mistakes and improve.
"It was nice to see the team turn it around and put together some winning streaks. There was some ups and downs for sure, there was a certain period of time there where we were really beating just about everybody in the league before we started having some injuries, so you know that was nice to see and it's nice that we've got such a young core of players coming back. We're looking forward to a bright, bright future."
As Raycroft and the Kings look to the future now that they're heading into the offseason, Raycroft said this playoff experience offered many valuable lessons to the young players on the team that they can build upon for next year.
"For a 17 or 18 year old coming in and going into a playoff series against 20 year olds, it's like a war out there. That Coaldale series was a real eye opener for some of the kids on how hard you need to work and how physical you need to be."
Even though the Kings are hanging their skates up for the year, Raycroft says he and the team did end on a high note, as they put their best foot forward and shouldn't have regrets about their quality of play against Okotoks.
"They worked as hard as they possibly could and I was really proud of the way they worked and battled throughout the series, in spite of the fact that we were swept from Okotoks. Hats off to Okotoks, they're a great team and they deserve to move on."
The next time we see the Kings on the ice will be in the summer before camp starts, and Raycroft said we should expect some new faces as the team will be looking for new players to replace the players who aged out and continue building on a young core.
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