What if the puck had not hit the crossbar? What if the puck had not struck a post?
Such are the questions – and fine margins – that the Maple Creek Under-11 hockey team will reflect on after a nail-biting Championship final loss against Shaunavon Badgers.
At one stage, the game was tied 6-6 after the Hawks scored three unanswered goals.
Shaunavon, however, pulled ahead in the final stretch, winning 9-6 to become 2022-2023 Southwest Saskatchewan Hockey League U11 Champions.
In the bronze medal game, Swift Current Ice Wolves defeated Swift Current Rangers 14-1.
Earlier, the Hawks had beaten SC Rangers 6-4 to advance to the final in Shaunavon’s Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre.
Although the Hawks were disappointed to have fallen just short, coach Jason Roberts was full of praise for their efforts. To have finished second in the 12-team Under-11 division represents a big achievement, he said. It bodes well for the future.
“The kids have been really awesome. They should be very proud of how far they have come.”
Saturday’s championship tournament followed the Hawks’ last league game of the season on Thursday.
For a while, it seemed they might give their fans at Maple Creek Community Arena a perfect parting gift by beating Swift Current Bandits.
The game was tied 4-4 entering the third period, with goals from Ty Knight, Declan Olson, and a double from Carter Steinkey.
Benz Packard then put the Hawks ahead with a long-range shot at 16.31, prompting a roar from spectators.
Hopes flickered, but were short-lived, doused by a goal rush from the Bandits.
In the few blinks of an eye, the Bandits raced to an unassailable lead.
By the time Turner Brown scored the Hawks’ sixth goal, with an assist by Mady Watson, the outcome had already been decided.
Roberts was disappointed by the 10-6 loss, but upbeat about the season.
While it wasn’t the result the Hawks wanted, he said, there was cause for optimism.
“It has been a good season, the kids have played hard, they want to get better, and we’ve won more than we lost.”
In the Under-11 category, the Hawks finished the regular season with a record of 14 wins, six losses and two ties. Shaunavon Badgers topped the standings after recording 21 wins, no losses and one tie. Swift Current Rangers and Swift Current Ice Wolves finished in the top four.
“It all comes down to Saturday,” said Roberts after Thursday’s game.