IN the end, Hull Stingrays didn’t even get chance to set foot on the ice before their fading Elite League play-off hopes were finally killed off.
The three days of action on the last weekend of the regular season were always going to see Hull relying on results elsewhere after a blank weekend last time out with defeats to Cardiff Devils and Dundee Stars left them three points adrift of the play-off places.
But Braehead Clan’s 4-3 win over Dundee on Friday night confirmed that it is now mathematically impossible for Hull to finish in the top eight, regardless of any points they may pick up this weekend.
Player-coach Sylvain Cloutier’s team will now finish their season with a trip to Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night, before hosting Coventry Blaze 24 hours later.
Work has already begun on putting together next season’s team with goaltender Ben Bowns, leading scorer Jereme Tendler, forward Matty Davies and Cloutier all returning.
But, from Monday, Cloutier will begin to work on the 2013-14 campaign and it is expected a number of other current players will return.
Not surprisingly, Cloutier was left bitterly disappointed on Friday night after his team’s fate was determined 265 miles away in Glasgow. But he insisted his players would be determined to go out on a high - with a first win of the season over the Steelers and victory over former owners Coventry Blaze the perfect riposte to missing out on the post season.
“It’s obviously disappointing to miss out on the play-offs,” said Cloutier last night.
“I’m convinced if we had beaten Cardiff at home last weekend we would have carried momentum over into the Dundee game and been in a much better position this weekend.
“But we knew it was out of our hands going in and, sadly, so it has proved.”
An often-used phrase in sport is that the margins between success and failure are finite and, while statistics only ever form a small part of any given season, one figure that will haunt Cloutier more than any other is his team’s failure to win a single shoot-out - losing seven such scenarios in the league, with six coming against Gardiner Conference rivals,
“If we’d had a bit more luck, even just in some of those shoot-outs we would have been in with a big shout this weekend,” said Cloutier.
“It’s not nice missing out on the play-offs it hurts.
“But, you know when you think back to where we’ve come from last summer with us practically starting from scratch and having new ownership, I still think we’ve done pretty well to be competitive and give ourselves a chance going into the final weekend.”
Ahead of Saturday night’s encounter at Ice Sheffield (7.30pm), Steelers’ head coach Ryan Finnerty has confirmed that Scott Champagne would be back in the home side’s nstarting line-up, heralding a return to defence for Rod Sarich.
“Champs will be back in on Saturday,” said Finnerty. “I thought against Nottingham we missed Roddy’s presence at the back end.
“As much as I like him up front I think it’s best for this weekend at least that we move him back.”
Steelers finish off their regular season with a home match at the Motorpoint Arena against second-placed Belfast Giants on Sunday night, at one point this season a fixture both teams hopes may have been a decider for the league championship.