A dream season came to a disappointing end for the Moose Jaw Warriors on Monday night.
For the second straight season, the Warriors' playoff run ended with a Game 7 loss on home ice to the Swift Current Broncos as they dropped a 6-0 game at Mosaic Place to close out their second round series.
"It's tough right now and this one is going to sting," said Warriors captain Brett Howden after the loss.
"We had nothing left, we gave it all we got, every guy can say that they tried as hard as could and it's just unfortunate to come up short in Game 7 again."
The Warriors returned home with all the momentum after a thrilling triple overtime win in Game 6 on Saturday night in Swift Current, but just as they had throughout the series, the Broncos bounced back with a strong effort to end Moose Jaw's season.
"Adversity for this team means nothing, the way that we can bounce back and fight through adversity is the reason we won 6-0 tonight," said Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin, who led Swift Current with two goals and four points in the Game 7 win.
Colby Sissons opened the scoring on a tipped shot midway through the first and then Gawdin made it 2-0 with 35 seconds to go in the opening frame.
Tyler Steenbergen scored 3:22 into the second and Gawdin followed that up with his second of the night only a 1:18 later to make it 4-0 after 40.
Giorgio Estephan and Max Patterson sealed the win in the third period to send the Broncos into the Eastern Conference Final against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
"It didn't seem like we had it right from the get-go, we played afraid to lose and not to win and in big games, you have to play to win and we just didn't have our foot on the gas," said Head Coach Tim Hunter. "It was a long series, physical series, we had a lot of guys banged up and part of that is the confidence in the team having in each other because a lot of guys were banged up and more banged up than anyone will realize."
Stuart Skinner blanked the Warriors with 25 saves for his third shutout of the series. Moose Jaw wasn't shutout at all over 72 regular season games, but they failed to score over the final nine periods on home ice.
The Warriors also went 3-5 at home during the playoffs, including a 1-3 record in this series against the Broncos.
"It's a disappointing end to a pretty good season, so it's tough, guys aren't happy, but someone's got to win and someone's got to lose, so we've just got to learn and I'm just happy to say that I was a Warrior for my last game," said Burke, who led the Warriors with nine goals and 21 points in 14 playoff games.
"We just didn't come out skating and it was tough, they've played us hard for seven games, or it's been like eight games with all the periods we've played, so to only get the one day off after the three overtimes is tough with the way we had to play in that game to come back, not trying to make excuses, but I don't if we had the time off to be ready to come and play a Game 7."
After winning the regular season title, the Warriors had championship expectations heading into the playoffs. The title buzz started around the team before the season even started and built up as they set franchise records with 52 wins and 109 points in the regular season.
Hunter said it's disappointing to have that come up short in the end, "I told the players we're really proud of the season we had, it takes a hell of a team to win a league championship during the regular season and we were that," he said.
"On the other side of it, it takes everything to fall into place, everything has to go right to win in the playoffs and it didn't for us, we had a lot of guys injured, a lot of guys played injured and that was the overall confidence of our team that we weren't 100-percent."
Hunter said the team has nothing to hang their heads about and only lessons to learn from the end to their season.
"Great regular season for us, put two banners in the rafters here that are few and far between in this organization over the years and it's a great stepping stone,” he said. “You don't become a great organization overnight, culture change, a lot of things had to change here and we're heading in the right direction for this organization to be better in the future, there's lots of prospects here, there's lots of good young players and we'll be back next year."