ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - They didn't win a championship, but Paul Postma thinks the St. John's IceCaps have a lot to celebrate after their first year in the American Hockey League.
The IceCaps were swept out of the Eastern Conference final Tuesday by the Norfolk Admirals.
Postma, an all-star defenceman, said the result was still a good one for the league's newest team.
"We had a pretty good year," he said Wednesday.
"Obviously, we had more expectations going into the playoffs to go a little further. It's not how you want to go out, like I said, I think we could have played a little better."
Questions had been raised about how a mix of players from the now-defunct Manitoba Moose, free agents and Winnipeg Jets prospects would play together.
But it didn't take long for those questions to be answered, and Postma said he thinks the team chemistry that developed was something special to be a part of.
"This year was just one of those years when the guys really gelled together, there was a lot of chemistry," he said. "We didn't really have any groups, little clicky groups or anything, we had a lot of fun together. We just worked hard and bought into systems well."
St. John's beat Syracuse in the opening round 3-1, then survived seven games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before falling to Norfolk.
IceCaps rookie head coach Keith McCambridge, who went to the Calder Cup final with the Moose, said he knows the pain of losing after a deep playoff run.
"You pour your heart and soul into every minute of the day thinking about how to make your team better," said McCambridge.
"You pour everything you have into the season and to fall short here really hits home. I know the make-up of myself. When I wake up tomorrow morning it's going to be hard to swallow."
McCambridge said a few of the pieces the team needed to win with began crumbling near the end of the season, mostly due to injuries.
"We definitely felt this was an opportunity we missed to win a Calder Cup here," he said. "There's a lot of things that have to fall in place to win a championship, and a lot of those pieces started to crumble away when we started losing some of those pieces of the puzzle."
Still, there is optimism from players and management following the first season in St. John's. The IceCaps sold out every game at Mile One Centre, prompting praise from the team for the fan support.
"To look around and see a sold-out building on a Tuesday night in November is outstanding," said McCambridge.
"I played a long time professionally, and a long time in the American League, and to see these sold-out crowds and the excitement and support we got this season really is the reason why this team was put in Newfoundland and Labrador."
For his part, Postma said he's excited to see what will happen in St. John's.
"I'm looking forward to good things coming out of this city for hockey."