But as far as coach Ed O’Brien is concerned, the format for the tournament was flawed from the outset.
“I should never be in a position where I’m happy to lose,” says O’Brien. “I should always be in the position where losing doesn’t gain you any rewards, but the way this tournament is set up, it rewards you to finish second.”
Team NL finished atop Pool C with a perfect 3-0 record following wins over the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Monday’s shootout win over New Brunswick. But under the rules set out for the Games tourney, that meant they would have to play the last place team in Pool A.
New Brunswick, meanwhile, second in Pool C, drew Prince Edward Island, last place in Pool B, and won 2-1, earning them a berth in the quarter-final round.
“That really is backwards,” suggests O’Brien.
“We did talk to hierarchy and we told them, any time I’ve got to play a game and it’s beneficial for me to lose, there’s something wrong with your setup.”
All that said, O’Brien and Team NL accept their fate and now get ready to face Prince Edward Island in the placement round on Wednesday, meaning the best result they can hope for is eighth.
Team NL knew what to expect from Manitoba on Tuesday, a strong, fast and aggressive team hungry for the medal round.
“But it’s not so much that,” explains O’Brien. “The problem was we don’t play that pace of game because we don’t get the opportunity to play it.
“This is the first time in this tournament we’ve had that pace. If we could get that all the time, we wouldn’t have any problem with it. It’s just not being used to it.
“They play at that level all the time. We get to play it once or twice a year. You can’t teach that level, you’ve got to play it and the more you play it the better you get.”
Team NL did their best to keep pace through the first period, limiting Manitoba to three goals on their first 43 shots on goaltender Kelsey Shute through the first 40 minutes. By the third period, Team NL just ran out of steam as Manitoba lit the lamp another six times.
The pace of the game also led to Team NL taking nine minor penalties to Manitoba’s four.
“We had so many penalties today and the penalties came because of the speed and the hooking and grabbing they do. We played short handed a lot,”
O’Brien isn’t worried about the first loss of the tournament affecting his squad’s confidence heading into Wednesday’s game against P.E.I.
“All the maritime teams have played before and we can compete with every Maritime team.”