The Drumheller Dragons season ended in Game 4 of the AJHL championships. Coach Curran says there is potential to put another very competitive team on the ice next season.
And what a ride it was…
The Drumheller Dragons beat the odds time and time again this season, however a strong Spruce Grove Saints team were crowned the AJHL Champions last Tuesday night in front of more than 1,600 fans at Drumheller Memorial Arena.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. We fought a lot of adversity, we lost a lot of good players at the wrong times this year…I think we brought some entertainment back into hockey, so I am proud of my players, I am proud of the ownership and am proud of who we are,” said coach Brian Curran.
He adds that he is appreciative to the fan support throughout the season and the playoffs.
It was the classic playoff scenario, the Dragons were fighting to stay alive and the Saints were looking to win a championship on their own terms. Spruce Grove scored early and held the lead through the first period. With 1:18 left in the first, the Dragons had a break with a five-minute powerplay, but were not able to capitalize.
It took fighting off an interference penalty charged to Colton Vannucci early in the second period to inject some energy back into the game and Vannucci connected from Trent Ouellette to tie the game six minutes into the second.
Defensively the Dragons staved off seven powerplays, but were not able to connect in overtime to stay alive.
Only 19 seconds into overtime Jake Mykitiuk broke away from the pack and scored the winner for the Saints.
“Hats off to Spruce Grove, they deserved it, their staff did a great job coaching and their players bought into it, and they are good champions,” said Curran.
The Spruce Grove Saints celebrate their AJHL championship after defeating Dragons 2-1 on Tuesday night.
The Dragons’ run enlivened the Drumheller fans but also caught the attention of the league. AJHL commissioner Ryan Bartoshyk said the parity in the south made for an exciting season.
“I looked back to the last time that it wasn’t Camrose or Brooks from the south, and I think it was 1999,” said Bartoshyk.
“From the league perspective there was a lot of parity, and it shows that anyone could be here and that is a good feeling for all our clubs to have at the beginning of the year.”
The progress the Dragons have made impressed Bartoshyk.
“I was at the first game when Brooks played Drumheller this season and to see the strides they made from Game 1 to here in Game 4 of the finals is a credit to the organization itself.”
The abrupt end to the season brings many changes for the Dragons, and this run brings life lessons.
“I told a lot of our young players they need to take a look at our 20 year olds,” said Curran.
“One of the experiences I hope they gain from it is to watch when a young man is finished his junior career. They say, am I going to college or am I going to work? The life questions come. This is something I think the young players saw tonight and I hope it is ingrained in their brain. When you have an opportunity to go to a finals like we did, not a lot of teams are going to get that chance…we had an opportunity to win a championship and what an experience in itself that is.”
It will take the players a little while to get over the sting of the loss, but when they do coach Curran says there will be some good memories.
“It was disappointing tonight, it was a very hurtful thing and I hope our guys learned some lessons, but when I look back and reflect on the season I will look back with smiles,” said Curran.
Looking ahead, he is confident the right pieces are in place for success.
“There are a lot of lessons from this but we could potentially have as good or better team next year which is very encouraging. We are going to have to make some moves but not too many and we can be a team that could come back and play very strongly next year,” said Curran.