‘As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.’
King Lear, Act 4, scene 1.
The Bard wrote the immortal line in King Lear more than 500 years ago, but the sentiment was shared by the BHA Bears, Saturday (Nov. 5), after a heartbreaking 6-5 overtime loss to the Mountainview Colts at Banff’s Fenlands Centre.
Mitchell Humphries scored five goals and goalie Dan Plater stopped 59 shots, however, the herculean effort still wasn’t enough to secure the win.
Bears’ Director of Player Personnel Garry Unger said the team was tired and its youth was exposed.
“It was tough for us because of the guys we lost. We have a lot of young guys on our team. The first three goals that went in, you’re trying to give guys ice time and you’re trying to win the game, and the first three goals they scored were giveaways from our younger players,” Unger said.
The Bears lost top centre Kyle Stephan in the first period to injury and Zack Wildman due to a fighting misconduct in the third period, robbing the team of two key players.
“I need two centremen so I can roll lines. The guys I was playing in the third were playing every second shift,” Unger said.
If Humphries received the glory, Plater was the tragic hero for the Bears. Banff was outshot 33-9 through two periods of play, and Plater made several acrobatic saves to keep the game close. The goaltender, considered one of the best in the league, received sympathy from his coach.
“I feel bad for Dan. The team is young and they make mistakes, but we’re ahead of where we were last year. I’m seeing a lot of good things,” Unger said.
After scoring a powerplay and regular strength goal, Humphries was a dominant force against the Colts, signaling his return to the lineup.
Humphries completed the hat trick in the second period when he walked out from the boards into the slot and ripped a wrist shot into the Mountainview net.
In the third period, Mountainview tied it up when Evan Thompson took a breakaway pass at the blueline before beating Plater with a perfect shot. The goal tied the game at 3-3 until Humphries struck again a minute later. A broken breakout ended up on Humphries’ stick, and he beat the Colts goalie with a clean shot.
The Colts again tied the game on the powerplay, when Jason Edwards was left alone in front of the net and was allowed to pop in a rebound.
Thirty seconds later, Humphries’ magic struck again. On the penalty kill, Humphries streaked down the ice and sent what appeared to be a soft shot past the Colts goaltender.
The goal gave the Bears a 5-4 lead with less than seven minutes to play. Despite a handful of questionable penalties, the Bears appeared set to hold on.
But a late penalty to the Bears’ Michael Harbich opened the door for Thompson to score his second goal of the game with less than a minute and a half to play.
The goal completely deflated the Bears, who let in the overtime winner a minute and a half into the extra frame.
A parade to the penalty box broke the flow of the game in the third (two players appeared to receive unsportsmanlike penalties for yelling at one another), and Unger took exception with its affect on the game.
“There were very questionable calls. You can’t blame the referees, they’re just doing a job. I’m not talking about a specific referee, but the refs are ruining the game by calling every piddly little thing. If a guy has never played the game before, he doesn’t understand the emotion,” Unger said. “You have to let the players play and emotions run. As long as no one is getting hurt, let the players play.”
On the bright side, Unger was impressed with many of his players, starting with Plater.
“Dan has come a long way. Right now, he’s probably three times a better goalie than he was a year ago. I don’t count that as a loss. As far as I’m concerned, Dan won that game,” Unger said.
He also had high praise for Humphries, who played his best game of the year.
“Here’s a guy that three years ago was one of the guys who was sitting on the bench and couldn’t get in the lineup because he wasn’t ready. Two years later, he’s scoring five goals and dominating the game. He scored five times and was good defensively as well,” Unger said.
Given the team played the night before and didn’t get home until 2 a.m., Unger said they played with guts, especially since he was double and triple shifting players like Humphries and Colten Wildman.
“Our chemistry is better this year. Last year, our chemistry wasn’t great until after Christmas. We have to learn how to dig in deep with the last five minutes and in the last few games they’re getting better,” Unger said.
Humphries is trying to make the jump to junior A hockey. As an Australian citizen, he needs an exemption from Hockey Canada before he’s allowed to play at that level. He launched his appeal this week and hopes to hear back shortly after receiving some interest at the end of last year.
“When I first came here, all my skills were pretty basic. Four years have turned it around. I hope to play Jjunior A at the end of this year or next year,” Humphries said.
He was humble after the loss, but credited his linemates for helping out.
“It was my first goal of the season and they seemed to bounce in. I’d trade’ em for the win though,” Humphries said.
The team still hopes to make the playoffs, as they sit in sixth spot in the south division of the Alberta Junior B Heritage league with a 2-11-2 record, seven points behind the fifth-place Medicine Hat Cubs.