The Yorkton Harvest headed into the Duncan McNeill Arena in Wilcox on Tuesday night trailing the top ranked Notre Dame Argos 2-0 in their best-of-five SMAAAHL first round series and needing a win to keep their season alive.
A win was not to be had however, as Notre Dame scored once in the first, once in the second and twice in the third to defeat the Harvest 4-1 and sweep the series three games-to-none.
Havest netminder Carson Bogdan suffered the loss, his third of the series, stopping 32 of 36 shots while Argos coach Del Patrick gave Yorkton native Matt Kustra the night off, instead giving Dylan Ferguson the start.
The decision worked out for Patrick and his Argos as Ferguson stopped 25 of 26 Harvest shots to pick up his first win of the playoffs.
Dillon Dube got the home side on the board just past the midway point of the first period when, with Corwin Stevely in the penalty box for boarding, his shot beat Carson Bogdan to make it 1-0.
Dube, overzealous after his goal, was issued an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty giving the Harvest a powerplay opportunity.
The Harvest powerplay could not capitalize on the opportunity however, as the Argos carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
A penalty shot goal by Geneva, Switzerland, native Damien Riat gave the Argos a 2-0 lead late in the second period, but the Harvest quickly cut the Notre Dame lead in half.
Stevely, in his final SMAAAHL game, got the Harvest on the board with just 1:33 left in the frame to send his team into the third period down just one at 2-1.
And while the Harvest managed to respond quickly after the Riat penalty shot goal, head coach Dan Cross felt the converted penalty shot was an important part of the game. “That penalty shot was a pivotal moment in the game,” said Cross. “We responded well, I mean, we scored right after it, but it was just one of those things where there was a lot of chaos and some other penalties were called after that and I don’t know, it just seemed to be a pivotal moment in the game.
“For them to score on it, it really did take the wind out of our sails a little bit and if we stopped it, it would have been a different game.”
The Argos instead led 2-1 after 40 minutes and quickly put the game away in the third.
A quick Argos goal by Gage Ramsay just 44 seconds into the third period gave Notre Dame a two goal lead.
Riat’s second of the game and third of the series sealed the deal for the Argos midway through the final frame despite some furious offensive pressure by the Harvest late in the game with Bogdan pulled in favour of an extra attacker.
“We pulled our goalie with four minutes left and we had it in their zone the entire time,” said Cross, following his teams’ 4-1 defeat. “We just had trouble scoring all year and it was very evident in those last couple games where we played hard but just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net.”
The Harvest season may have just ended, however that hasn’t stopped Cross from already preparing for next season.
The Harvest coach announced the signing of four bantam aged players for the 2014-15 SMAAAHL season.
Tyler Stratechuk and talented twins Carson and McKenzie Welke from the Yorkton UCT Terriers, as well as chippy blueliner Carson Sass from the Melville Millionaires bantam squad, will be joining the Harvest next season.
But where most people will sign some bantam players and simply keep in contact with them throughout the season, Cross has gone beyond the call of duty, including the bantam players in not only practices, but team events as well. “We’ve already tried to include those guys as much as possible into our team,” offered Cross. “They’ve been to several practices already and some outside team functions as well so hopefully it will improve the cohesiveness of the team.”
Cross also feels that the group of returning players will be hungrier than ever after their brief taste of playoff action; something that Cross believes will benefit the Harvest next season. “I think next season looks really good. Our young guys really performed well this year and will want to go further into the playoffs now that they’ve experienced it,” said the Harvest bench boss. “All of our 15-year-olds did well and I was really happy with their progress. We’ve got some second year guys that will be 17 next year and we should have some good leadership there and the addition of the Yorkton guys with their winning mentality will be great also.”
With all that being said, however, Cross believes that having smaller goals throughout the season will benefit his team in the long run. “First off we want to be consistent all season,” said Cross, continuing, “We’re going to try to improve our record from one year to the next and hopefully make the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary next year which is a goal we didn’t achieve this time.”
With the additions of the Welke brothers as well as Stratechuk and Sass, not to mention the high amount of returning players (including goaltender Carter Phair), the future for the Harvest looks pretty good and the goals will certainly be attainable.