Emotional toll heavy

Katie Brickman
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Loss difficult for Generals’ veterans

Trey Tendler was still dressed in his full gear. 

The Moose Jaw Generals and the Chateauguay Grenadiers shake hands at centre ice after the Grenadiers won 4-2 in the final round robin game on Friday evening. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

He didn’t want to take it off.

That meant that the 4-2 loss his Moose Jaw Generals just suffered was real.

The captain of the Generals was red-eyed and emotional when speaking with the media after the team was eliminated from the Telus Cup.

“Whenever you lose out of a tournament like this, it is always emotional,” said Tendler. “I’ve been here for three years and I’ve given a lot of my life to this. I’ve come here every day and it means a lot.”

Tendler wasn’t the only emotional player on the team, but it was difficult for him, as the captain and as part of the veteran leader group to say they weren’t good enough to continue in their quest for the national midget AAA championship.

The season ended almost the way it began for the Generals – on a bad bounce.

The Generals were in control early against the Châteauguay Grenadiers in the final round robin game on Friday night, but couldn’t put it away in the end.

The Grenadiers scored two empty net goals in the last minute of play to seal their fate in the semifinal and sent the host team packing their bags.

“It sucks to end this close to a national championship,” said defenceman Shane Collins. “We definitely had a team that could have gotten it done. We just didn’t have the luck this week.”

Luck was never really something this team had all season. They worked hard each game, dealt with some internal problems and put forth a gritty effort to finish fourth in the regular season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.

The bad bounces continued in the playoffs as they were defeated in four games by the Regina Pat Canadians and then they had to wait 45 days until Telus Cup kicked off in late April.

“We had some chances, but we couldn’t be more proud of the guys for the way they worked and handled themselves,” said Ray Wareham, head coach of the Generals. “We just wanted them to empty the tank and come back into the room with no regrets. They did that.”

A host team hasn’t won the championship since 1991. The Generals knew the statistics before going in, but it still didn’t help alleviate the emotional toll of losing.

“We tried our hardest to win,” said Wareham. “It was emotional. They played their hearts out.”

Grant Naherniak started in goal for every game during the tournament and finished with a 0-3-2 record.

“It is a pretty big honour after being here for three years. It was great to start every game in the Telus Cup,” he said.

Naherniak has grown into a starting goaltender with this organization and was a calm presence between the pipes for the Generals.

“It has meant everything ... the best three years of my life,” said Naherniak. “I’ve made a lot of friends here and will probably be friends with for my whole life. I got some great coaching here. I will never forget Ray and Jeremy (Ebbett).”

It was a solid year for Naherniak, but a difficult one for Omega native, Regan Nagy.

After being re-assigned by the Victoria Royals in November, Nagy battled a back injury and missed much of the season. He returned for the playoffs and had a decent tournament.

“It has been a great experience. I think playing in this league and this town, this team and the coaches has brought my game to the next level,” he said. “I think I matured a lot and ready for the next level.”

As for the organization, Wareham believes this will help grow the program.

“I think our young guys that are going to be back next year now have a little taste of it and have that hunger in their belly to try and get back there,” said Wareham. “Hopefully we can earn our way there next year.”

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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