An emotional Marc Habscheid tried to sum up a season of adversity after the Prince Albert Raiders were eliminated from the Memorial Cup Tuesday night in Halifax.
"I'm just kind of disappointed for the guys right now," said a subdued Habscheid, whose Raiders lost 5-2 to the OHL's Guelph Storm and finished the tournament 0-3.
"Tonight we were gassed," the Raiders coach said. "I could tell in the first two shifts that their heart was it and they tried, but they were done. They gave everything they could, but it just wasn't going to happen.
"They were fresh and we just didn't have much in the tank. We couldn't generate much."
But the loss should not take away from what this group of players were able to accomplish.
"No one picked us to be here at the beginning of the year," Habscheid said.
"Just a bunch of guys that got laughed at three, four years ago. Got sand kicked in our face and our franchise was made fun of. Our players, everyone, we were all made fun of. We were no good and (told) our midget team was better than us but we just stuck together"
Habscheid said that camaraderie is what got them through a number of tough times.
"They faced a lot of adversity. We had the death of our head scout (Ron Gunville) midway through the season.
The death of former head coach Donn Clark, and of Adam Herold who lost his life in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last year, also weighed heavily on the team.
"I lost my father," said Habscheid, choking up. "Those young men in there helped me through that. They are just like my adopted kids."
Tuesday night saw Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki put an end to the season for the WHL champion Raiders, while also giving his Guelph Storm a chance to go directly to the Memorial Cup final. He had two goals and an assist.
The OHL champion Storm (2-1) are now turning their attention to Wednesday's final round-robin game that will decide which one of the three remaining teams goes straight to the championship.
The host Halifax Mooseheads (2-0) play the Quebec league champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1-1) to wrap up the preliminary-round portion of the tournament. It's a rematch of the QMJHL final that the Huskies took in six games.
A Halifax win would send the Mooseheads directly to the final with a 3-0 record, while a Huskies victory would leave Halifax, Guelph and Rouyn-Noranda with 2-1 records and needing a tiebreaker to determine playoff seeding.
Raiders captain Sean Montgomery and Dante Hannoun scored for the Raiders (0-3). Brayden Pachal had two assists as Ian Scott stopped 20 shots.
WHL champions have struggled in recent years at the Memorial Cup and this time around was no different.
Tuesday's loss was the 13th in a row for the WHL at the four-team competition, dating back five tournaments.
Montgomery, who has played more games in the green and white jersey, said it will take time to get over the loss.
"It sucks right now, but we're proud of each other," Montgomery said.
"Just two years ago we were almost dead last in the league and now we're champions of the (WHL), but it sucks pretty bad right now."