Hitmen look at bright side

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

There were long faces when the Calgary Hitmen returned to the Saddledome Saturday.

Disappointment after something of a night’s sleep was still prevalent.

Not that anybody should expect otherwise after the WHL champions lost 5-4 to the Brandon Wheat Kings in overtime in the Memorial Cup tournament semifinal.

Still, players were already seeing the bright side in their season.

“We had a goal to win a Memorial Cup, and to fall short is disappointing, especially to come so close,” said goalie Martin Jones. “This one’s going to hurt for a little bit, but hopefully, everyone can look back and realize we had such a great season and all the accomplishments we had. I’m really proud of these guys.”

“We did win a championship and had a successful year.

“You move on and learn from it. I’m proud of the way we battled back in that game, the tournament and the whole season. I’m proud of our team.”

The Hitmen were supposed to be rebuilding.

Instead, they marched to the regular-season crown — with 52 wins — and claimed the WHL crown.

However, the tragedy of the Memorial Cup tournament — which concludes Sunday when the Wheat Kings face the defending champion Windsor Spitfires — is that at least two teams which won league championships end the season feeling down.

“That’s why it’s the toughest tournament to win,” said Hitmen defenceman Giffen Nyren, whose junior career came to a close. “I still think we were the better team and didn’t come with our best effort, and that reflected in the loss.

“Guys are going to think about it for a long time — what coulda, shoulda — but at least it wasn’t Game 7 against Moose Jaw in the first series we’re thinking about.

“I’m going to remember the good things of this year forever. There’s both happiness and a little bit of sadness today, but I’m going to try and block out the sadness and focus on the happiness. We had a great year, a great team and did a lot of good things. That’s all that matters.”

Nyren isn’t alone in having finished his junior career.

Several players are expected to make the jump to the pro ranks, such as Jones, Brandon Kozun, Michael Stone and Misha Fisenko, just to name a few.

Plus Joel Broda and Del Cowan have completed their overage years. Broda, drafted by the Washington Capitals, will likely have professional options.

Cowan isn’t so sure.

“I’ll probably go back to school,” the gritty winger said. “Go into the agriculture field, maybe. I have lots of friends going to school, and that could be fun.

“It really does go fast. Everybody says it goes fast when you’re the old guys, and it does. Time does fly. It was a good run, and I’m happy with that.”


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