BRANDON — The tears said it all.
Tough kids who had given everything they had for months were left with glassy eyes and an empty feeling they couldn’t explain.
Calgary Hitmen co-captain Ian Schultz pulled his hat down as far as he could before facing the cameras and tape records.
But his cracking voice betrayed his defiant stance.
“It’s definitely not the way we wanted it to end,” Schultz said after Friday night’s heartbreaking 5-4 overtime loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Memorial Cup semifinal.
“We’ve got a great group of guys in there who deserved better than we got. It breaks a lot of hearts in there to have to go home.
“We felt we could do a lot of good things if we made the final, but tonight wasn’t our night.”
The Hitmen wasted another brilliant performance from goaltender Martin Jones, who played his final junior game Friday night.
“We really let him down tonight,” said Schultz, who also likely played his final game in a Hitmen jersey.
“He stood on his head and kept us in it.
“But we let him down and it’ll take a long time to forgive myself for that.”
Overagers Joel Broda, Del Cowan and Giffen Nyren graduated from the junior ranks with Friday’s crushing loss.
Broda, an unsigned Washington Capitals draft pick, said it’ll be a few days before he can fully appreciate the magic ride his team enjoyed.
“This stings right now,” Broda said. “But I don’t think you can look at this whole experience as a negative one.
“It’s a rare opportunity, and we gave it a real good run.
“I’m proud of everyone (in the room) and I’ve never been on a better team in my life.
“Hopefully, some day I’ll be on another team as good as this one, but it’s not a sure thing.”