The Saskatoon Blades got the finish they were looking for, winning Saturday’s finale 5-4 over the Prince Albert Raiders at Sasktel Centre.
It was the final WHL game for graduating Blades’ captain Evan Fiala, Braylon Shmyr and goaltender Tyler Brown.
Fiala scored an empty-netter that wound up being the game-winning goal — part of a few dream finishes for the 20-year-olds.
Soaking up the WHL experience one final time, Fiala did something for the first time in his playing career and looked up to the crowd.
“I blew a kiss out to my mom,” he said. “I was able to find her in the crowd.”
Fiala will be taking his skills to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL next season.
The Clavet native relished the opportunity to play close to home and make memories so close to his family.
“It’s a lot of emotions out there for sure. It’s sad. You got to take it all in right now,” he said.
“I’m sure it’s going to hit me a lot harder a little later.”
Blades head coach Dean Brockman was able to send the season-best 9,624-person crowd at Sasktel Centre home happy one last time this season, but he remained focused on sending the three graduating players off on the right note.
“Those three guys made an awesome contribution to our hockey club,” he said.
“This was a team that always tried to give it their all and they did that (this season) — I’m really proud of them for that.”
Lost in the ceremony was Max Gerlach’s hat trick.
The Texan sniper put up a career-best 70 points this season and is poised for a stellar 2018-19 season playing on a line with Kirby Dach and Eric Florchuk.
“We built a lot of chemistry in the locker room, everywhere in our lineup we’re pretty deep,” said Gerlach. “It’s going to be an exciting summer for everybody.”
It was the 300th WHL career game for Shmyr, the Blades leading scorer for the second year in a row, with 88 points.
Shmyr couldn’t contain his excitement after the game, speaking to media with a smile that could last for weeks.
“To go out like that means a lot to me, knowing I had a great five years in this league.”
At the game’s final buzzer, Shmyr retrieved the game puck for Brown, who capped off his career with three straight wins.
“I did get a little emotional,” Brown said of his final WHL appearance. “I was happy to be in front of that crowd tonight and soak in every bit that I could.”
His season isn’t without regret. Brown was on the bench for most of his time with the Blades after being acquired by the Regina Pats at the trade deadline.
“When I came here, all I wanted for this team was for them to experience the playoffs.”