BRANDON -- Full playoff beard in effect, Rejean Beauchemin walked out of the Prince Albert Raiders dressing room in a bit of a daze. His team had just lost the first game of the Eastern Conference final against the Brandon Wheat Kings, and he looked like he had just woken up.
Of course, Friday's 4-2 nightmare was still fresh in his mind.
It's hard for most players to consider the big picture after a loss, but the Raiders goaltender is seeing things a little more clearly these days.
Even as the stakes get higher in the WHL playoffs.
"It's been good so far," the thoughtful Beauchemin said about his 2004-05 campaign before his team played the Wheat Kings last night in Game 2, which was ongoing at press time. "But I don't even want to say something about the season ending now."
Understandable, when you consider the season the Winnipeg goaltender has had.
If Beauchemin could hang a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on his locker or could somehow hit the snooze button on this fantasy year, he would.
Why? Oh, let's see ...
Making the national junior team. Leading your club on an extended playoff run. Those are definite reasons to stay in bed and keep dreaming.
After the 19-year-old returned from his gold-medal stint backing up Kootenay Ice netminder Jeff Glass at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, N.D., over the Christmas break, Beauchemin returned a little older, and a lot wiser about his craft.
"A little bit of confidence, a little more jump," he answered when asked what changed from his pre-WJC outlook to his post-WJC perspective.
"I mean, I was practising with the top junior players in the world every day and doing pretty good.
"I came back to PA and really believed I was on the right track."
He only saw action in one game at the WJC (a 9-0 win over Germany), but when the Philadelphia Flyers draft pick (sixth round, 191st overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft) went back to Prince Albert, he transfused that confidence, that swagger, into his game.
And Prince Albert has transformed into Cinderella this post-season.
After sweeping the higher-ranked Saskatoon Blades, Beauchemin led his club to a six-game series victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers (which tied with the Wheat Kings for the highest point total in the Eastern Conference).
Not bad, considering the Raiders finished a game under .500 and 25 points back of the East division champion team that calls the Wheat City home.
Heading into Game 2, the 6-foot-2, 192-pound netminder had posted an 8-3 record with a 1.55 goals against average and two shutouts this spring.
Yeah, he's on the right track.
"I was on a bit of a high when I came back, but it's still something you have to adjust your game to," he admitted. "I just tried to make sure my mind was right all the time."