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This article was published 2/5/2014 (730 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Marlin Murray woke up Friday morning with a practice to plan and a dramatic weekend of hockey ahead of him.
"This is why you play the game," said the Dauphin Kings head coach. "This is why you coach the game. We've got to seize the moment here."
And 320 kilometres away in Winnipeg, Blues head coach Don MacGillvray was back at his office with one lingering emotion still gnawing at his insides.
"I tell ya," began MacGillvray, "it really feels like my dog just died."
A week ago the Kings and Blues entered the Western Canada Cup in Dauphin with one goal in mind: To land one of the two berths available for the RBC Cup, the Junior A national championship to be held May 10-18 in Vernon, B.C.
The host Kings are still in the fight, having gone 3-1 in the WCC round robin to finish first and advance to tonight's championship game against the Yorkton Terriers.
And even if they should stumble there, a second chance exists in Sunday's berth contest.
"It's like a perfect storm as far as the Western Canada Cup organizing committee is concerned because Yorkton is 90 minutes down the road," said Murray. "The building will likely be sold out.
"As far as the safety net (Sunday's berth game) is concerned... those kids in the room are human. They know about it. But we want to give ourselves a chance of having that special feeling on home ice of raising that championship trophy in front of a sold-out crowd.
"When we put this team together we wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to have a chance to go to the Royal Bank Cup. Now we're in a real good spot. They're a motivated group and for us to play at home in front of our crowd for the Western Canada Cup will be a special moment. Hopefully they can relish it, step up and get it done."
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion Blues, meanwhile, had their magical run come to an end Thursday afternoon in Dauphin with a loss to the Spruce Grove Saints that left them out of the playoff picture with a 1-3 record.
"It's very disappointing in the sense that we played well enough to be 4-0 and in Saturday's 1-2 game," said MacGillvray. "We knew what the stakes were going into (Thursday's) game, we battled back after being down 3-1, made it 3-3, got a power play and then gave up a short-handed goal. We just found every which way to shoot ourselves in the foot over a couple of games.
"There was never any quit in our players or a belief we couldn't do the job. The puck just didn't bounce the way it had earlier. That's the game, isn't it?"
And although he wasn't thinking that way on Friday, one day MacGillvray and his crew will look back at the 2013-14 season and recall their phenomenal run through the MJHL playoffs that saw them win a play-in series before knocking off league heavyweights Selkirk, Steinbach and then Dauphin en route to winning the Turnbull Cup for the first time since 2006.
"Don't mistake how we feel about what we accomplished this year," said MacGillvray.
"We're still our league's champions. We had a terrific playoff season and a good year. But when you don't win the last game of the season it hurts.
"It's so hard to get to the national stage and you only get so many opportunities. We had a great opportunity and it just didn't work out for us. That's why it hurts so much right now."
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