The Nanaimo Timbermen were one good period away from keeping their playoff hopes alive, but things fell apart.
The city's senior A club was eliminated from playoff contention in the Western Lacrosse Association following a 12-5 loss to the Burnaby Lakers on Saturday night at Frank Crane Arena.
The game was 6-5 after 40 minutes, but the visitors tallied twice in the first five minutes of the third period and the home team sagged.
"They got a couple quick ones and we couldn't recover from it," said Graham Palmer, T-men captain. "We played pretty good for the first two periods and then we just came out flat. That's been one of our downfalls all year. I can't explain why we would come out flat in a potentially season-saving game."
Timbermen coach Kaleb Toth said defenders were switching when they shouldn't have and Lakers forwards ended up with open looks. The coach said T-men forwards took some suspect shots and didn't get to the areas they needed to get to against a tough Burnaby defence.
"They make you try to take the middle and we just weren't willing to get to the spots where we needed to be," said Cayle Ratcliff, T-men alternate captain.
Palmer, Ratcliff, Tyson Roe, Corey Shires and Paul Brebber scored for Nanaimo and Zak Boychuk suffered the loss as shots were 44-32 in favour of the visiting team.
The Timbermen have now missed the WLA playoffs for seven straight seasons. Uneven results this season meant the T-men had been in must-win mode for a few weeks.
"The work ethic is there. Guys want to win; it's not like they're not trying," Toth said. "It's just we're not playing a full 60 minutes. We're making too many small mistakes [and] unfortunately when we make these mistakes it ends up costing us, big time."
Toth is finishing his second season behind the bench in Nanaimo. When he arrived at the start of 2013 he talked about a three-year plan to make the playoffs which he still thinks is reasonable.
"We need to start making the playoffs and we need to change the way things are around here and it all starts with the young guys moving forward," he said.
Both the coach and team captain mentioned that the T-men were missing some players this season who would have helped. Nanaimo will have two first-round draft picks and three second-round selections in 2015.
"Our future's looking bright. Unfortunately, we don't want to play into the future, you want to play in the now," said Toth. "It's frustrating because I think this group of guys is talented enough to make the playoffs when they work hard and when they want to and when they don't make the little mistakes."
Palmer said it's hard to think about next year right after being eliminated and Ratcliff said the outcome will take awhile to get over after the team's efforts to try to stay in contention.
"We gave it everything we can but fell short," he said. "It seems like I'm here talking to you about the same thing after every season. It's getting frustrating. It's tough."
Veteran counts 100th goal
Fans at Nanaimo's final home game of the season got to see a milestone moment, as veteran Cayle Ratcliff scored his 100th career WLA goal. Fittingly, it was a workmanlike goal as he fought to win a loose ball and fired it in.
Public address man Paul Morrow announced the achievement as Ratcliff was named one of the game's three stars.
"It's cool," Ratcliff said. "I'm not an individual accolades type of guy, but obviously it's nice to get to a milestone like that for all the hard work that you've put in over the years."
The Timbermen close out the season with road games Wednesday (July 30) against the Langley Thunder and Friday against the Victoria Shamrocks.
Toth said he will try to give young players a chance to show their stuff, while recognizing that the veterans want to play and have pride in competing.
"I personally want to go out with two wins," said Palmer. "You can't play this game just going through the motions. You have to want to win."