This past weekend, the midget AAA Norman Northstars finished their 2017–18 season with a double header at the C.A. Nesbitt Arena, where they took on the third-place Winnipeg Bruins.
Unfortunately, the Northstars went out with more of a whimper than a bang, since the Bruins came away with a definitive win on both occasions.
On Friday, the Bruins’ offence started out hot, scoring in the first two minutes of the game and went on to net another seven goals before the end of regulation time.
The Northstars only managed to generate two goals in response, resulting in an 8–2 final in favour of the visiting team.
The Bruins doubled their offensive output during Saturday’s game, and ended up beating the Northstars by a staggering margin of 16–1.
With this final pair of games in the books, the Northstars finished their 33rd season dead last in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, with a dismal 4–43 win–loss record to boot (including one shootout loss).
Because of this record, the Northstars will not be competing in the league’s playoffs in March, having been mathematically eliminated from the post-season back in late January.
After Saturday’s game, head coach James Buchanan admitted that this season has been a long and frustrating affair, with the team’s inexperience and inconsistency being their biggest Achilles heel.
“Having a young team, it’s difficult to have that depth and the mental toughness to stay up and compete at a high level, day-in and day-out.“
However, Buchanan said this season hasn’t been completely devoid of highlights or memorable moments, since their Feb. 16 match-up with the Winnipeg Thrashers marked his first victory against a Winnipeg team in his two years as head coach.
“That’s definitely a highlight for me and I think for all of the guys,” he said. “The organization hadn’t beat a Winnipeg team in quite some time, so to come away with those two points at home was very nice.”
However, Buchanan also said that the road ahead won’t be any easier, since the team will be losing some of their top forwards—including Jerome Linklater, Mitchell Reid and Jon Tagoona—for next season.
In terms of the players themselves, they seemed to take this latest pair of losses, and the season as a whole, in stride.
Not only did the whole team embrace at centre ice following Saturday’s game, but a lot of departing players talked to the Thompson Citizen about how they still had a blast playing hockey this season.
“I’m just going to miss these guys,” said departing defenseman Tanner Pilon. “It’s tough letting these guys go, but hopefully I see them again in the future.”
The Northstars’ 2018–19 training camp is set to begin sometime in mid-August, while their regular season will begin in October.