The Blackfalds Bulldogs fought until the end but came up short of their goal.
In Game 4 of the Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division Finals, the Bulldogs’ season came to an end after the Brooks Bandits won 4-2.
The Bandits swept the Bulldogs 4-0 in the seven-game series to advance to the AJHL Finals.
Head coach Doug Quinn said they gave everything they could but the strenuous nature of the playoffs took a toll on his team.
“Our first two series were so difficult, so physical that we just ran out of energy,” he said.
“We were short players… We just didn’t have much else to give but I was proud of the kids. I just didn’t want us to quit and this is an opportunity for our individuals to really grow, for our team to grow, and organization.”
Bulldogs defenceman Tyler Teasdale got on the board first to take a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game.
The Bandits answered in the last 1:30 of the opening frame to head into the intermission all square. In the second period, Brooks grabbed the lead just under a minute in but at the midway point, Bulldogs Jack Plandowski tied the game once again.
In the final frame, Brooks put the final nail in the coffin scoring early in the third and adding an empty netter to win the series.
Quinn gave credit to the Bandits, who are defending AJHL and Centennial Cup champions, for playing a tough series.
“They’re highly skilled and at the end of the day, they scored three powerplay goals. We had opportunities and we just couldn’t seem to capitalize,” Quinn said.
“They’re a top program and I think for us we’ve learned a lot as far as what it takes to compete at the highest level. They’ve set a standard and we’re going to do everything we can to compete with them at the highest level.”
Last year in their inaugural season the Bulldogs were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. This time around they took a massive step in only their second season in the AJHL coming within four games of advancing to the finals.
“The experience is huge for my young guys and that was the thing that was really exciting for me is to see the growth in them,” he added.
“We needed them to step up to beat Calgary and Drumheller. The experience of the game is something they can take into next year. I’m really happy with the growth of our guys.”
With the loss, Blackfalds will lose six players due to being overaged next season. Many on their way out feature some big names including captain Brett Meerman, starting goaltender Matthew Hennessey, Tyler Wallace, Jason Siedem, Kasey Hiemstra, and Evan Mitchell.