Defeats hurt. Play-off semi-final defeats sting.
Matt Nickerson sat in the media room just along the corridor from Fife Flyers’ dressing-room, and his deep intakes breath said it all.
Deflated. Disappointed. Down.
The only consolation - a tiny crumb - was the hope that Belfast Giants went on to claim victory in Sunday’s final.
‘’That way we’d have been put out by the team that won it,’’ he said, but he’d rather have been talking about eliminating the red-hot champions.
But he really wanted Sunday’s game to be the final - not the third-fourth place play-off.
Nickerson was outstanding against Giants - he dominated the defence and stood tall along with guys like Kyle Haines, Tommy Muir and Kevin Regan.
They knew they were up against arguably the most powerful forward line in the EIHL, and matched them shift for shift, but one goal - one shot - meant it was not to be.
‘‘Disappointed for every guy in the room,’’ he said. ‘‘To go out like that was tough.’’
‘‘We knew this would be a tight game. Their netminder made some big saves, and Regs - some huge saves.’’
His faith in netminder Regan was absolute,
‘’He was a brick wall back there,’’ said Nickerson. ‘‘If he sees it, it is not going in.
‘‘Man of the match? He’s man of the season. I’ve played with netminders are now in the show, and he is like a cat. I keep telling him he should be in defence fighting guys!’’
Nickerson was left to reflect on what might have been had this been a best of five or seven series - he, and the entire Fife team, were confident it would have gone right to the wire.
The levels of support around the arena left him lost for words.
‘’That was awesome - they were chanting throughout the warm-up and that fires me up. I’m ready to go crazy and fight like 40 guys!’’
When the rawness of the loss eases, the big defenceman will reflect more fully on a remarkable time in a true hockey town - one he has embraced with immense enthusiasm.
‘‘The season? Really, really unreal! One of the most memorable seasons in my career.
‘’I am so proud of the guys on the team - we have bonded so tightly. We have battled back from tenth place when place said we were a joke. We weren’t.
‘‘One win became two and so on,
‘‘To lose today was just awful considering how big a run we went on to get here.