It’s fair to say that the second half of this season was a disaster for the Saskatchewan Shockers. After a surprisingly strong 14-15-1 record in the first half, the Shockers collapsed in the second half, posting a 7-23-0 mark. That record included a pair of seven-game losing streaks. Their late-season misadventures ranged from a stick getting wedged in the boards to a pair of players getting arrested after taking a joyride at the airport. Their dismal half came to a suitably disappointing close, as the Shockers stumbled through a memorable final week.
“We took a big step forward this year,” said Saskatchewan coach Myron Beasley. “It just doesn’t feel like it right now.”
The week began on an embarrassing note, as the Shockers lost in overtime to the SHL’s worst team, the expansion Seattle Sailors. The win allowed Seattle to tie last year’s Shockers for the fewest-ever points recorded in a season with 23. (The Sailors did wind up setting a record for fewest victories, finishing with 10 vs. the Shockers’ 11.) Seattle won only two of its final 27 games; both were against Saskatchewan.
After the game, Beasley called the loss “kind of humiliating, to tell you the truth.” Little did he know how much worse it could get.
The next night, the Shockers hosted their rivals, the Dakota Rapids. The Rapids soared in the second half (19-8-3) while the Shockers cratered, and this game starkly illustrated the team’s opposite trajectories. When the shelling stopped, the Rapids had set a new SHL record for goals in a game, pounding the Shockers 10-4. Stickel, one of the stars of the airport misadventure, started in goal for Saskatchewan and surrendered all 10 goals. Beasley took some criticism for subjecting his backup netminder to such a pummeling, although he later admitted, “I kind of lost track of the score after a while. I didn’t know it was that bad.”
On Tuesday, the Shockers watched Michigan outshoot them 42-18 and clinch the West division title with a 3-1 win. In many ways, it was the highlight of the Shockers’ week. “At least we got to see someone having a good time,” said RW Brad Stevens.
The next night, the Shockers were in Anchorage, and Stickel was back in net. The result was another thumping, with the Igloos winning 8-2. Stickel’s last two calamitous outings swelled his GAA from 4.61 to 5.29. “I think I’m kind of going deaf from the goal horn going off in my ear so many times,” he said after the Anchorage fiasco.
The Shockers closed out the season at home, and managed to salvage a shred of dignity, beating an imploding New York team 6-4. But even in victory, Saskatchewan lost. The win dropped the Shockers out of the second spot in the draft, allowing them to finish a single point ahead of Quebec. In a shallow draft, the slip could cost the Shockers dearly.
Despite the second-half swan dive, the team announced that Beasley will return as coach next season. “There were some guys offering me condolences after the announcement,” admitted the coach. “But I’m happy about it. After all, it means I still get paid! Yippee!”
Beasley added in all seriousness that he was optimistic about next season. “I know these last severaal weeks were kind of a slog,” the coach said, “but I think it’s made us stronger. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? We’re not dead yet.”