There was scarcely a sound outside the Cardiff Devils dressing room after their devastating 4-0 Elite League defeat against Sheffield Steelers.
Coach Andrew Lord, sitting in the corridor, looked stunned.
Finally, after several minutes, Lord, still in his skates and playing kit, stood up and marched in to tell his players what he thought of an awful team performance.
I can’t remember a defeat which felt worse than this one-sided clash since Lord became player-coach more than three seasons ago.
League champions Devils surrendered with scarcely a whimper. Steelers were allowed to boss the game and the visitors could not find the tenacity to challenge their superiority.
“There was no battle level, no compete,” said Lord after emerging from the dressing room.
Devils lacked energy, intensity, passion and commitment on a night when Steelers were almost allowed the freedom of their ice.
“It’s difficult to put this into words, but it’s hugely frustrating,” said Lord in a brutally honest interview. “Deep down we knew we’d be behind the 8-ball with three imports and one of the better D-men in this league out.
“But you’d think that meant we’d work even harder, battle for the team and lay everything on the line for each other. It wasn’t there.
“There was no battle level. No compete.
“That’s eating me up. An awful lo of work has been put in by a lot of people over the last few years to get the pride back into our organisation and bring passion to every performance.
“But we lost battle after battle out there. There looked as though we had no will to win.
“Now we need a response like no other when we play Nottingham Panthers on Sunday. Every guy has to step up. You can talk about systems, line, toughness and more, but you have to out battle your opponents. We didn’t do that.”
Devils were without Mark Richardson, Patrick Asselin, Justin Faryna and Joey Haddad, while new signing Tyson Strachan made his debut on D.
“I felt for Tyson,” said Lord. “There was no way he should have played after taking three flights less than 24 hours before the match. He had one short practice and we had to put him straight in.
“I’m looking forward to his contribution going forward, but we put him in a difficult spot against Steelers.”
Sunday’s League clash with Panthers is almost sold out with less than 40 tickets left last night and the players know they must step up in front of home fans.
Devils now have two more imports on their roster than they can play in any one game and when injuries clear up Lord and his management team will certainly talk about whether that can be sustained.
It will take a big performance against Panthers to show this Devils team are genuine contenders to challenge for the title again.
Fans who travelled to South Yorkshire felt badly let down by their team, while it must have been deadly quiet on the team coach as they headed down the M1 and M42 on the way home.
Scorers, Steelers: Matt Marquardt 2+0, Colton Fretter 1+1; Andreas Jamtin 1+0; John Armstrong 0+2, Tim Wallace 0+1, Mathieu Roy 0+1, Levi Nelson 0+1, Mark Matheson 0+1.
Period scores (Steelers first): 2-0; 1-0 (3-0); 1-0 (4-0).
Shots on goal: Steelers (on Bowns) 12+13+8=33; Devils (on Mustukovs) 8+8+8=24.
Penalties in minutes: Steelers 4+6+2=12; Devils 2+4+4=10.
Powerplays: Steelers 1/5; Devils 0/6
Referee: Jan Schmejkal
Stars of the game: Steelers, Matt Marquardt; Devils, Andrew Hotham.