The Orchard Park Patriots boys hockey team’s 2013-14 Hamilton public high school season came to a heartbreaking end last week.
Orchard Park lost to the Westdale Warriors 3-2 in overtime in the division two championship last Wednesday at Chedoke Arena.
“We’re all feeling it today that’s for sure. We’re really disappointed,” Patriots head coach Laura Provost said last Thursday. “We had an awesome run this season and we really developed as a team. The loss in the final was just a little bit of a crushing way to end the year.”
Orchard Park captain Connor MacTaggart opened the scoring in the championship game, netting a goal with just over 12 minutes left in the first period.
The Warriors evened the score with 7:42 to go in the second. MacTaggart re-established the Patriots’ lead three minutes later.
Westdale fired back on the power play with 3:42 left in the third period to send the game to extra time.
The Warriors rounded out the scoring, netting a goal just 26 seconds into overtime.
Provost said it was a “difficult game.”
“Our strongest players were on the ice basically the entire last half of the game. They were exhausted,” she said, adding Orchard Park goaltender Daniel Krasulja played an essential role in keeping the Patriots’ chances alive. “I don’t think that there really is a reason why we ended up losing. I think the other team was just better overall.”
Orchard Park defeated the fourth-place Sir Allan MacNab Lions 4-3 in overtime in the semifinals on Feb. 27 to earn its place in the final.
The Patriots finished first during the regular season – just ahead of Westdale – with a 6-1-1 record.
Provost said despite the championship loss, she’s very happy with the squad’s overall performance.
“We only lost one game the entire (regular) season and that was against Churchill, so we had a really good year. I wouldn’t say that we were a front-runner or people thought that we were going to win it all, but we’ve been so strong,” she said. “We’ve got a team that’s full of Grade 9 and 10s. Most of the teams that we play are all Grade 11 and 12s, so when you look at that I’d say we were very successful this season.”
Provost said through it all, the team has really bonded together.
“The players have been around each other since November. They really know each other well,” she said. “They’ve all been working really hard for the opportunity to play this season and they’ve had a lot of great experiences. The brotherhood that they have is amazing.”
Provost said a majority of the players will be returning next season.
“We will be losing the ones who do most of the goal scoring and our goalie, so our team is going to bleed a lot. It’s going to be a very different season, I think, next year,” she said. “But other teams go through losses like that as well, so who knows what’s going to happen next season. We’ll just have to wait and see.”