HUMBOLDT — Humboldt Broncos head coach Scott Barney believes his team learned lessons this season that will benefit in them in life.
“They have had to deal with different things, like the media, in the unique situation we had here,” Barney said.
Those lessons – and the people they learned them with – will likely be remembered for longer than their post-season fate. On March 26, the Broncos fell in 3-2 in overtime to the Estevan Bruins in game seven of their quarter-final series to bring their season to a close.
As they had done all season, the Broncos displayed character and a will to win.
Estevan took a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Humboldt team fought back in the second period as defenceman Josh Patrician and hometown product Reagan Poncelet each lit the lamp.
To keep his team in it, Humboldt rookie goalie Rayce Ramsay stopped all 13 third-period shots thrown his way.
In overtime, Tristyn DeRoose was able to score at the 4:54 mark for Estevan.
“In the overtime, it is one bounce one way or one bounce our way … Credit to Estevan,” Barney said.
The loss concluded the junior hockey careers of eight Broncos in their 20-year-old seasons, including Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud, the only players back from last season. The duo, along with fellow 20-year-old Michael Clarke, served as assistant captains. No “C” was worn this season out of respect to late captain Logan Schatz.
Camrud and Patter certainly were inspiring to their teammates and the community. Camrud led the Broncos in the playoffs with four goals, eight assists and 12 points. Clarke paced the team in scoring during the regular season and was named its most valuable player.
Also aging out were fellow forwards Drew Warkentine, Owen Guenter, and Mitch Zambon, as well as defencemen Patrician and Mark Edmands. Each played an important role. Barney praised the leadership and the example set by the 20-year-olds on and off the ice.
“It has shown our younger guys how they need to treat the younger guys going forward,” Barney said.
Six of Humboldt’s top seven scorers during the regular season were in their 20-year-old season. However, the team does boast talent that could potentially return.
Its sixth leading scorer, Logan Foster, a 19-year-old, had 37 points in 54 games split between Humboldt and Melvlle.
Ramsay distinguished himself during his rookie campaign, and fellow netminder Dane Dow, who had a team-high 19 wins, is also eligible to return.
Zac McIntyre, who recently turned 18, paced the Humboldt rookies with 11 goals and 26 points.
In his 18-year-old season, defenceman Chase Felgueiras earned a spot on the NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings.
However, some players could head to the Western Hockey League. Poncelet, who was in his 19-year-old season, has committed to play for Briercrest College.
Recruiting will be important, and Barney said he told potential returning players: “There are opportunities there for you to grab.”
The April 6, 2018 bus crash near Tisdale claimed the lives of 16 people associated with the team, and altered many others. The team was rebuilt in the off-season by former assistant general manager Jason Neville, ex-assistant coach Chris Beaudry, and current assistant general manager Luke Strueby, who was the team’s head scout last summer, and tweaked during this past season.
The eyes of a nation were on the Broncos. The emotional home opener was broadcast on TSN.
With players getting to know each other, the Broncos quickly learned to gallop. At one point before Christmas, the team was on top of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings and earned a spot in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings.
Barney has praised how this team came together and how important that is.
There were some bumps along the way. The team had a 2-7-0-1 stretch before Christmas. Just before the new year, the Broncos parted ways with head coach Nathan Oystrick. Barney moved from assistant coach to the top job and, together with assistants Troy Smith and Rhett Blackmur, helped the team move forward. The Broncos turned heads by posting a 35-19-3-1 regular season record and earning the sixth seed for the SJHL playoffs.