The student athletes on the Selkirk College Saints hockey team stepped up their road game this past weekend and returned to the West Kootenay with two huge victories against the Simon Fraser University Clan and the Trinity Western University Spartans.
The pair of late-season wins locked down a regular season British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) title and guaranteed the team the home-ice advantage during the playoffs which begin on March 11 at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre. Local hockey fans will now have the opportunity to cheer the Saints onto an unprecedented fourth straight league championship.
Selkirk College Saints veteran forward Tyler Kerner in action against the Trinity Western University Spartans. The Saints brought back two victories from the Lower Mainland this past weekend and have secured top-spot overall in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League which guarantees them home ice advantage in the playoffs which begin on March 11 at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex.
“When we started the regular season, first place was the ultimate goal because playing before the tremendous support we receive in Castlegar is huge benefit in the playoffs,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “The boys came into this weekend determined to return home with a pair of wins. The entire team played great in both games and the two wins were well deserved.”
The Saints started the road weekend in Burnaby against Simon Fraser who entered the game holding down first place in league standings. Needing a win to have a chance to surpass the Clan, both teams came out cautiously in the first period and the game remained tied at zeroes after the first period.
The Saints exploded for three unanswered goals in the middle frame when Ryan Edwards, Dallas Calvin and captain Tanner Lenting all scored. The Saints salted away the victory in the third with goals by Steven Pantazopoulos and Troy Maclise. Veteran goaltender James Prigione picked up the shutout in net.
“Simon Fraser has been playing some great hockey this season and they are a very good team,” says Heaven. “We’ve had our struggles in their arena, so to see the team play that well against a top-notch team was very rewarding.”
Trinity Western Tough to Beat at Home
Having climbed into first place, on Saturday night the Saints had the opportunity to clinch first overall in the regular season with a victory against the Spartans in Langley.
The Saints dug themselves a hole by midway through the second period, trailing 3-1. But when rookie Dane Feeney scored on the powerplay with just over six minutes remaining in the second period, the mighty Saints offence awakened.
Selkirk College scored four unanswered goals in the final period starting with Pantazopoulos tying the game just 19 seconds into the third. In just over a minute after that Tylor Branzsen gave the Saints the lead and then Derek Georgopoulos gave his team some cushion. Though Trinity Western fought back, Selkirk starter Brett Huber shut the door. With 39 seconds left in the game, Alex Milligan scored into the empty net to give the visitors a 6-3 win.
“Fighting adversity and staying composed when you are behind is vital when it comes to playoffs,” says Heaven. “That was a great comeback and what makes it even more encouraging is that every player contributed in an important way to ensure it happened. It was a great way to clinch first overall.”
The Saints will wrap up the regular season on Saturday night against the Eastern Washington University Eagles at the home, but the three point lead atop the standings guarantee Selkirk College first place overall. The March 5 game against the southern visitors starts at 7 p.m. and the Saints will pay tribute to their graduating players during a pre-game ceremony.
The Saints will begin the post-season with a series against the University of Victoria Vikes at the Castlegar & District Community Complex on March 11. The best-of-three series starts Friday night at 7 p.m., continues on Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon if necessary. Should the Saints be successful, they will then host the winner of the Simon Fraser-Trinity Western series for the league championship on the March 18-20 weekend.