Interview with Graham Black (Download)
Interview with Eetu Laurikainen (Download)
Terry Pavely and Shawn Mullin discuss the graduating players (Download)
It’s always tough to see guys move on at the end of a junior hockey season. Whether it’s for fans who have loved watching those guys play, community members who have dealt with them on a personal basis, media members like me who travel with them and deal with them on a daily basis, billets who live with them and become family… and especially teammates and coaches who really are a family by the time a season is done.
I really believed this season’s team had a chance to make a good run in the playoffs. A win over Medicine Hat would have given them a chance to host a series with Kootenay. As good as the Ice have been playing that’s no slam dunk, but it’s not a chance a 5th seeded team gets very often. On top of that they were playing the best defensive hockey they had all season and Eetu Laurikainen had never been better than he was in the series with the Tigers.
Unfortunately the Tigers didn’t give an inch either. They played a fantastic series and their veteran defensive group was as hard to break as any I’ve seen in a playoff series in recent years. That poise is hard to teach.
There was lots of good news. The community really came together for the Broncos in a way I’ve never seen, the team played a very gritty series and battled until the end and they gained very valuable experience. The entire defensive group is eligible to return next season and a great percentage of the forwards could be depending on the pro status of guys like Colby Cave and Coda Gordon. This could be the kind of series and experience that group needs to prepare them to really make a run next season?
Unfortunately they have to do it without three of the most important and talented pieces of this season’s team. We say goodbye to speedy forward Graham Black, athletic goalie Eetu Laurikainen and all-around veteran Nathan Burns. Replacing two #1 centres and an elite starting goaltending won’t be easy on or off the ice. That’s as good a crop of overage forwards as I’ve ever seen. They are also all great young men who I personally will miss dealing with. I believe they’ll be successful in whatever they do and hope they will get the opportunities they deserve in the professional ranks if that’s what they decide to pursue.
More thoughts on the end of the season to come…