Canberra Brave coach Rob Starke struggles to pinpoint where it all went wrong.
The simple answer?
"A lot" went wrong as the Sydney Bears pulled off one of the greatest upsets in AIHL history to send the Brave packing in a come from behind 6-4 semi-final victory in Newcastle on Saturday.
Canberra had dropped just two games throughout the 28-game regular season and entered the sudden-death semi-finals as hot favourites to secure a second consecutive championship.
But Sydney scored four unanswered goals in the final period to overturn a 4-2 deficit and book a place in Sunday's grand final at the Hunter Ice Skating Centre.
"There's a lot of disappointment among the group and a sense of unfinished business," Starke said.
"When you go into a third period winning 4-2, a lot has to go wrong to lose the hockey game.
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"The momentum shifted on us in that third period and we couldn't get it back, but full credit to the Bears. They found a way to get the job done on us.
"We came in as favourites and had a really good start to the game. We had a good thing going on but that's sport, things change in a hurry and we couldn't find a way to recover."
The Bears brushed off a lacklustre second period and netted twice to level the scores heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.
Canadian forward Danick Gauthier rose to the occasion and put his side ahead with less than four minutes left on the clock.
Canberra's last ditch bid to level the scores came to no avail as Jeremy Brucker scored in an empty net to floor the defending champions and secure Sydney's second straight grand final berth.
"It didn't go to plan, it's a very disappointing result for us for sure," Starke said.
"Full credit to the Bears, they came out in that third period and found a way to win the hockey game."
This season will go down as one that got away for the Brave, whose breakthrough triumph last season still stands as their only title from five finals appearances.
Now the squad will go their separate ways with a host of Brave players heading overseas for professional or university hockey commitments.
Many may not return, such is the transient nature of the league.
Then there are those that remain, who will now set their sights on returning "bigger and stronger" in search of redemption.
AT A GLANCE
AIHL semi-final - SYDNEY BEARS 6 (Gauthier 2, Brucker 2, Annesley, Dauda goals) bt CANBERRA BRAVE 4 (Hughes, Gabrielle, Darge, B Kubara) at Hunter Ice Skating Centre.