Great crowd, shame about the game.
The Maple Creek Community Arena was packed on Friday evening for a highly anticipated top-of-the-league showdown between the Senior Hawks and Cabri Bulldogs.
Unfortunately, the Hawks forgot to bring their A-game. Or had it snatched from them by a side that came out of the traps with a ravenous – and admirable – hunger to win. The Hawks were unable to recover, slipping to a 6-2 defeat.
The way they were rolled over left fans dismayed and perplexed.
“They looked like they didn’t want to get involved,” said one man. “I think they were worried about getting injured or suspended before the playoffs.”
Sean Chapman, head coach, was unsparing in his criticism.
“We embarrassed ourselves tonight,” he said.
The 6-2 defeat ended the Hawks’ 13-game winning streak at home, which stretched back to the 2019/20 season when they went down 8-4 to Gull Lake.
From the outset, the Bulldogs seemed to want victory more.
They tore into the home side with bared teeth, drawing blood almost immediately.
Within a minute of the first period, they were 2-0 up, setting a tempo that left the Hawks dazed and confused.
There were still more than seven minutes of the period remaining when a rampant Cabri slammed in goal #5.
It was hard to believe that this was meant to be Fortress Maple Creek, an arena where the Hawks do almost nothing but win.
Earlier this season, the Hawks edged Cabri 6-5 in a thrilling encounter. This time the energy and fire were conspicuously absent. The team seemed seized by a collective lethargy.
Although David Haaf pulled one back six minutes before the break, the damage had been done. The Hawks were a spent force, devoid of belief that they could muster a comeback.
The second period saw Cabri add to their tally, before Brady Resch scored a consolation goal with just over nine minutes left.
Anyone expecting the Hawks to mount a blood-and-thunder rearguard offensive in the third period was disappointed.
Perhaps the Hawks’ previous home game – a 13-1 rout of Gull Lake – had lulled them into a torpor from which it proved impossible to emerge.
The game fizzled out, the Hawks, and their fans, apparently accepting their fate long before the end.
Chapman said his team was blindsided by the way the Bulldogs grabbed the initiative in the opening minute.
“They punched us in the mouth right away, and we didn’t react, we didn’t have a pulse,” he said. “We embarrassed ourselves tonight.”
Chapman hoped his players would come prepared the next time they faced Cabri.
“The first ten minutes the game was over. We weren’t ready to go. It was unacceptable.
“There is nothing more I can say about it. We just have to be better. We should be embarrassed. There is a lot of work to do if we are going to beat that team. They have got two really, really good hockey players (Matt Spafford and Kenton Dulle). If we don’t figure them out, we are in trouble.”
Chapman said a lot of the Hawks players had been scared to touch the puck.
“I think a lot of people noticed it,” he said. “These are games where you can establish yourself.
“We had some pretty good hockey players out of the line-up tonight – Cody Tetrault, Blake Fournier, Ryatt Bayne – so other guys have got to step up to the plate, to fill the hole.
“If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity, when those guys come back you are going to find yourself spectating. I’m disappointed that some of the guys didn’t take advantage of that tonight.”
Chapman said that as coach he was ready to take responsibility for his team’s performance.
“We’ve got to be ready to go Sunday (against Shaunavon), because if we don’t win on Sunday I think we end up in third place.”