THE DRESSING room was awash with tears.
Sheffield Steelers coach Ryan Finnerty declared he had “never felt so low in his life.”
This, then, was the aftermath of Sunday’s season-crushing defeat at iceSheffield in the Play Off quarter final.
Hull Stingrays, a modest side which had finished seventh in the 10-team Elite League, had put five past the former champions.
The realisation that the season had ended without a trophy was too much for some players to bear.
There were scenes of absolute anguish, proving how much some players, if not all, care for the club.
Reflecting on the season, Finnerty was at his most scathing when he referred to himself, at the end of his rookie year as player coach.
“I made tons of mistakes” he said, although that wasn’t a reference to firing Colt King just days before the Play Offs commenced.
“I can’t blame anybody. It comes from the top. At the end of the day it’s a results-based business and that lands solely on me. There is no point pointing fingers now (at players.) It’s blatantly obvious some guys have been working their tails off and others haven’t; its frustrating, but it lands on me and the coaching staff not individual players.”
Finnerty says his own performance will improve as a coach, now he has detached himself from the playing side of his role. “Being a bench coach will change things, 100 per cent” he said.
“You see the game chop and change and that helps you make better decisions. We will be a better club next year.”
While Finnerty did not select any one person for criticism, other than himself, it is clear he has misgivings about the determination shown by some of his imports.
“There is only so far you can of if guys don’t want to put in the effort” said the Canadian.
“But the biggest feeling is that we have let people down; the fans and ownership and everybody who works away from the rink to make this team succeed. That’s the hardest thing. I have never felt this low in my life.
“I know how much negativity and pressure is going to be coming my way now, but it goes with the job.
“On the other hand, it is frustrating to see how far you can go and how far you can slip in one season.”
Steelers lost 5-2 to a Hull side who will be rank underdogs against Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night in the second play off semi final.
Finnerty said of Sunday’s game: “Every time they came down the ice they scored a goal, we didn’t play bad, we were all over them.
“But their goalie (Christian Boucher) made some great saves, they played just two lines and four defence and they worked hard.
“We had a game plan, we went at them and any other night we should have six, seven or eight goals” said the coach.
“Some guys logged a lot of minutes and worked pretty hard, but we were deflated every time they shot they scored.
But there are no excuses, we give them and their goalie credit.”