Tied with less than five minutes remaining in Game 4 and facing elimination, the Lethbridge Hurricanes came up short, giving up two late goals — including an empty-netter — to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The 6-4 loss ended the Canes’ season, with the Oil Kings sweeping the series 4-0.
“I’m proud of the group we have,” fourth-year forward Justin Hall said after the loss.
“It’s an awesome group on the ice, awesome group off the ice and I’m proud of the way we battled against that team.”
Held to one goal or fewer in the first three games of the series, the Canes’ offence broke through Thursday night, scoring four goals — all at even-strength. But they couldn’t hold off a dangerous Oil Kings power play that went 2-for-4 and scored the winning goal.
Unable to avoid the sweep, the Canes feel the series was closer than the results would suggest.
“It was never a blowout,” co-captain Joe Arntsen said.
“We came down to pulling our goalie in every game. We played hard… at the end of the day, we just needed a bounce or two to get a win.”
One bright spot for the Canes: goalie Bryan Thomson.
Thomson stopped 41 shots in Game 4 and was peppered throughout the series. He made at least 34 saves in every contest, seeing an average of 43 shots a game fired his way in the four-game series.
“Tommy was a backbone for us this series,” Arntsen said. “He gave us a chance every night and he stood on his head. He made some timely saves for us and kept us in the fight.”
The loss marked not only the end of the season for Lethbridge, but also the final WHL game for three Hurricanes; Corson Hopwo, Kade Nolan and Hall, who played every minute of his career in a Canes sweater.
“It’s hard, not a lot of guys get to spend their whole career in one spot,” Hall said.
“It was a pretty special four years. It was everything for me, so it’s hard to say goodbye.”
“Hallsy’s had his whole career here. Just a credit to him for where he started and where he got to,” Canes head coach Brent Kisio said.
“Hopper obviously was here a short time, but he played hard and brought a lot of leadership. Nolan brought a big stability to our back end. I’m very proud of the way he played and what he taught our guys.”
A disappointing end to the season, but a teaching moment for the young Canes.
“It just shows where we have to get to, to be a contender and win a playoff series,” Arntsen said.
The team will assemble one final time on Monday before returning home for the offseason.