The Wheatland Kings have been eliminated from their playoff run after being soundly defeated 4-0 in their best of seven series versus the Okotoks Bisons.
Game four of the series took place on Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Strathmore Family Centre Arena, ending in a final score of 7-3 in favour of the Bisons.
Despite the end result, Head Coach for the Kings, Doug Raycroft, said he was pleased that his team fought hard until the end.
“We are a little disappointed but we played better today. It is always tough to lose but Okotoks is a good team and anytime there was a mistake it was in the back of the net with them,” said Raycroft.
“Today we really battled. I thought we out battled and out played them and this was the first game of the series we out shot them.”
Though not a common sentiment from Raycroft, he added he did not believe the referees to have been fair and impartial to his team throughout the course of the game— regularly issuing penalties for minor grievances.
“I think we, a lot of times seemed to be getting on the wrong side of a lot of the calls. I don’t know if that is just from the history of this team or what but we seem to always be taking a lot of penalties that are pretty soft,” he said.
“They don’t seem to be called on the other side and against a team like Okotoks, you can’t do that. They just have too many weapons and they know how to make you pay.”
Raycroft explained overall, the Kings did not put forward their best performance throughout the second round of their playoff run, as for much of the time they had to contend with some of their stronger players being off the ice due to injury.
Going forward, the Kings’ Captain, Chase Clayton, as well as Jacob Masciangelo, Landon Brassard , and Kyle Feick will have retired from the team, having aged out of the Junior league.
If there was a game at which the Kings had a solid shot at defeating the Bisons, added Raycroft, it was during game one, where for much of the game, the score was tied 1-1.
In a disappointing turn for the Kings, the Bisons claimed game one in the final minute of the third period, and proceeded to run away with the entire series.
Game two saw the Kings defeated 5-2, and in game three, they were crushed 5-1.
Raycroft, having taken over as head coach for his team partway into this season, said he looks forward to being with them right from the start when it is time for the boys to sharpen their skates again in the fall.
“I think we started to define ourselves as, you know, instead of being an undisciplined team, we were starting to become more disciplined,” he said.
“We moved the puck really well, we did have trouble scoring but we were a much better team towards the end of the year than we were early on. I think a lot of the teams knew that it’s hard to, hard to play against us a lot of times.”