There are moments that come to mind when reflecting on the Quad-City Storm's first season.
A shootout win in the season opener, another on New Year's Eve and a pair of third-period comeback victories to close the season provided fans with flashes of excitement.
However, those came too few and far between as the Storm wrapped up their inaugural season 18-33-5 and in ninth place in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
"I'm not used to losing. I'm not used to losing that much, and I'm not used to not making playoffs," Storm head coach Dave Pszenyczny said. "It's going to kill me all summer thinking about it, but I've got to use it as a positive.
"I can't use it as a negative or my recruiting will be awful and I'm going to nitpick."
Although the success on the ice wasn't what the organization wanted, the Storm enjoyed strong support in their first season off the ice.
Q-C averaged 3,180 fans, sixth in the league. The Storm also followed through on a commitment made before the season to be the community's team, donating $162,754 to more than 100 local non-profit organizations this year.
"We will always have our hockey lovers here and we know that," team president Gwen Tombergs said. "We also want people who don't know the sport and want to come and have a good time and raise some money for a non-profit. It's great, and it worked."
There was a steep learning curve for the Storm, who had 3 1/2 months to put together a team after the Quad-City Mallards ceased operations last April.
Ryan Mosley and John Dawson were announced as SPHL owners on May 23, Pszenyczny was named the head coach on June 8 and Tombergs was announced as the first female president in league history on June 21.
With not much time to work before the season opened on Oct. 20, there were going to be some growing pains.
Even though the Storm struggled throughout the year, enduring an eight-game losing streak and two separate seven-game losing streaks, the organization's commitment to the community didn't waver. Along with the financial contributions, the players took visits to schools, hospitals and other events.
Tombergs received the Athena Award last week, which honors women who, by their example in their professions and communities, are inspiring other women to realize their potential.
"I'm very pleased as this was a learning year for everybody," Dawson said. "I think it's the same way as how I looked at the on-ice stuff. We're learning, we put some good things together, now we just have to make sure that things that worked good, work great and maybe things we weren't so successful at, how do we get back to where we want to be with those?"
Pszenyczny made plenty of changes throughout the year as only six players who were on the opening day roster were on the season-ending one. The Storm head coach showed a knack for finding some skilled players in those roster moves. Shane Bennett led the team with 14 goals and 30 points in 34 games after being acquired from Fayetteville. Cody Walsh came out of retirement to lead Storm defensemen with 17 points in 38 games.
Of the players who stuck with the team all year, John Scully scored 14 goals in his first full year in the SPHL and Dalton Mills battled through an ankle injury to score 10 goals and add 17 assists in his rookie season.
There's momentum heading into next season, but it is up to the Storm to carry it through.
"We've got to learn from the bad things but work on the good things we had as well," Mills said. "Off the ice, being involved in the community, that's awesome. But hockey-wise, when it comes to winning games, I think we know what it takes but we've got to learn from our mistakes.
"I think this year we lacked a true leader and it's going to be nice next year to have someone step up and kind of fill that role."
Those are sentiments echoed by Pszenyczny, who elected not to name another captain after Don Olivieri was called up to the ECHL in November.
"I've got to learn from it and there's a lot of things I've got to do better for next season," Pszenyczny said. "I have to micromanage more. I've played on teams where the players themselves were the ones able to do the little things as far as getting out there early, working on stuff and staying out later.
"Starting next season, if guys aren't in shape that I want back, then they're not going to be here. I don't have any tolerance for it at this point."
Pszenyczny has a handful of players in mind he wants to bring back but first has to protect 13 players before a yet to be announced date this summer. After that, he can't sign players until Aug. 1, but hopes to have some good faith deals done before that.
At this time last year, Pszenyczny was still playing, captain of the playoff-bound Peoria Rivermen. Now with a full six months to work on the team, he expects the on-ice product to match what's happening off the ice.
"I've been on my phone non-stop, looking at players who were left off playoff rosters, talking to college coaches right now whose seasons are finished," Pszenyczny said. "It does help out, and not only that, I think the good word about the Quad-Cities, and how the community and fans embraced us, seeing our building and our locker room, I think it's going to make recruiting a little bit easier.
"I don't know about the harsh winter we had, but I think it's going to be a great place for players that want to play in this league."