It was not the end to the year the Humboldt Broncos were looking for but it was a tremendous turnaround for the club.
A year after finishing the season in 11th place in the 12-team Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League standings with 17 wins and 39 points, the Broncos jumped to fifth in the league recording 31 wins and 64 points, an improvement of 14 wins and 25 points.
“We took the steps that we felt we needed to take but obviously we’re no where near satisfied,” said head coach Darcy Haugan.
The season got off to a great start for the Broncos as they rattled off wins in eight of their first nine games before injuries took their toll as the Broncos played stretches of the next few months without a number of key contributors including Logan Schatz and Trevor Posch.
The injuries caught up with the team as they started sliding down the standings, ultimately winding up fifth.
The fifth place finish was good enough to qualify the Broncos for the playoffs where they were swept away by the Nipawin Hawks four games to none.
Despite the quick playoff exit Haugan noted it was a very good learning experience for the team.
“It was somewhat of an eye opener and our guys saw how dialed in they have to be. Obviously we’re taking inventory from the lessons that we learned.“
Haugan says there is value in defeat if a team can use it properly.
“Our guys realize that and got a little taste of what it’s going to take. With that being said everybody’s leaving here extra motivated to come back better and ready to go for next year.”
One of the biggest lessons Haugan says the Broncos learned is that they are going to have to earn everything they get.
“It’s going to continue to be drilled into everybody that plays for this hockey team or works for us is everything is going to be earned and we know nothing’s going to be given to us so we’re going to work even harder this off season and try to take that next step.”
After completing last season with no graduating players, the Broncos will see six players graduate this season, including longtime Broncos Posch and Connor Swystun, as well as goaltender Garret Mason, defenseman Parker Wakaruk and forwards Luke Kempf and Brett Horn.
“They did a great job establishing and rebuilding that culture, laying that foundation. So for everybody that does return it’s up to them to continue that,” said Haugan.
“For the new players coming in we’re going to hold them to a high standard here and they’ve got to be ready to come in here and add value to this program.”
One of the places Haugan will begin looking to start replacing some of those players is around the Humboldt area, noting he feels there is some real talent around.
“We’re excited about the list of potential local players that are around as well as our list players and it’s our job to make this camp as competitive as possible.”
Haugan says the goal is to win a championship, and notes in order to get there they are going to need that mentality from all of the players as well.
“We’re going to need championship efforts and work ethic from everybody that’s involved and like I said nothing’s going to be given. Everything’s going to be earned and that’s the way that we like it.”
With the Broncos players now heading home for the summer the key for those looking to return next year as well as the new ones coming in will be to come in bigger, faster, and stronger than this season.