Cornwall - Apr. 18, 2011 - The good thing about being in a championship series is that you have a chance to win it all, a chance to be remembered as the best.
The bad news is that you can end up on the losing end, relegated to the lowly rank of second-best.
The Colts and their fans lived that cruel reality on Thursday night, on home ice no less.
At one end of the rink, the Pembroke Lumber Kings basked in the glory of winning their fifth straight league title. The players shared hugs and high-fives and let out screams of joy as they took turns hoisting the Bogart-Nielsen Cup.
At the other end, the Colts huddled together like a group of wounded soldiers, their faces expressionless, their eyes filled with blank stares.
For some of them – scoring champ Jacob Laliberte, goalie Pete Karvouniaris and long-serving defencemen Leslie Lavictoire and Matt Jacobs – it would be their last time in a Colts jersey. Surely, it wasn’t the ending they were hoping for.
Watching the celebration unfold on the ice, I couldn’t help but wonder what if. What if that Game 3 double-overtime thriller had gone in favour of the Colts, as it most certainly could have? What if the ref hadn’t made some of those borderline calls in Game 5, a game in which the Colts gave up four power play goals?
Truth is, it didn’t really matter. To their credit, the Lumber Kings had a great series, and they earned the championship. And as much as I hate to see Pembroke win, I have to give credit to their coach, Sheldon Keefe, for the amazing job he’s done in assembling five consecutive championship teams - no small feat in the high-turnover world of junior hockey.
Though it stung to see someone else celebrating on our ice, I wasn’t nearly as disappointed as I thought I would be. Sure, the Colts fell short of the top prize, but they played hard right to the end and gave the Lumber Kings a good battle.
Looking back, the Colts treated local hockey fans to some exceptional hockey this season. There were some big win streaks early in the season. We got to see Karvouniaris set a new league-record for regular season wins. We also watched as Laliberte continued his offensive assault on the league record books - finishing his career as one of the best goalscorers in the 50-year history of the league. We got to watch the Spink twins develop into premier players. Together with Laliberte, the trio formed one of the best offensive lines to ever skate for Cornwall. We got to see players like Billy Ulrick, Connor Primeau, Kyle Baun and Drew Henry step into their own.
In many ways, this Colts team was a perfect reflection of the city and people they represent - hardworking and resilient.
With a number of players eligible to return next year, the future does look promising for the Colts and their fans. With any luck, the ice will be flipped around and we’ll be the ones high-fiving and hoisting the cup.
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A final note about the Colts – of all the players moving on, I think I’m going to miss Leslie Lavictoire the most.
The native of Kirkland Lake played four seasons and 200-plus games for the Colts, and he showed up to play every night. He wasn’t afraid of the dirty work, things like blocking shots and battling for pucks in the corners.
Lavictoire’s brother Landon also skated for the Colts a few years ago. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other Lavictoire siblings in the pipeline.
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The Cornwall connections turn up in the funniest places.
I was browsing in a used record store in London, Ont., last week when I came across a copy of the Barstool Prophets’ 1997 album Last of the Big Game Hunters.
I already own the album so I didn’t buy it. But I did move it up on the shelf in hopes that someone else will discover the great rock music of Mr. Graham Geer and Company.