Lockers emptied out. Bags were ready to go. An early April exit is a feeling the veteran IceHogs are too familiar with now that they've missed the playoffs four straight years.
(Brian Connelly) "It didn't end the way we wanted," said defenseman Brian Connelly. "It was a good experience overall for everyone. It's tough saying good-bye to all the guys."
"It's kind of an empty bitter feeling," said forward Mark McNeill. "I'm sure all of us wanted to keep continuing and playing into the playoffs. Unfortunately not this year."
Missing the playoffs doesn't sit well with the younger guys either.
"Right now everyone is sad," said forward Alex Broadhurst. "Some of these guys you're not going to see again like some of the older guys who will probably go somewhere else."
No one is more disappointed than Ted Dent is about sitting out the postseason.
"We've had an over .500 record the last three years in a row since I've been head coach," said Dent. "We just haven't had enough to put it over the top and get into the playoffs."
There is hope for next season. Barring some trades the Hogs could have an exciting young nucleus back led by Broadhurst, Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, Ryan Hartman and Teuvo Teravainen. And they could use this year's disappointment as motivation for next season.
"We're just going to come back stronger next year and try to get it done," says forward Garret Ross.
"We're expecting big things out of ourselves next year," says Broadhurst. "We're going to take it upon ourselves the young guys. We don't want to be here again and have this feeling like we are right now."
"There's a bright future for a lot of these players," says Dent.