By Dave Link, Knoxville News Sentinel
The Knoxville Ice Bears cleared out their locker room inside Civic Coliseum on Tuesday.
Not what they wanted to be doing.
Instead of preparing for this week's Southern Professional Hockey League championship series, the Ice Bears were hauling their sticks and packing their bags, some of them pondering their futures.
The Ice Bears planned to win the team's fourth SPHL title this week, but their 10th anniversary season came to an abrupt ending when they were swept in two games by Pensacola in the semifinal series.
"The guys would rather be getting ready for the finals, so we're all disappointed," second-year Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen said before the team's season-ending gathering Tuesday night at Civic Auditorium. "Ask anybody in (the locker room). Every single guy expected us to still be playing because we really felt we had a team that had the elements and personnel to go all the way. It's disappointing, but we're going to learn from it."
Three of the Ice Bears were on the six-player All-SPHL first team: center Kevin Swider, right wing Emery Olauson, and defenseman Mark Van Vliet. Swider was selected the SPHL's Most Valuable Player for a record third time, while Van Vliet was chosen the league's top defensive player for the second consecutive year.