The Selkirk College Saints will raise another British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) banner to the rafters of the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex on Saturday night, but the focus for this year’s group of student athletes will not be on the past.
The Saints captured a fourth straight provincial title last March before a raucous home crowd at the Castlegar arena, further adding to a historic run that will long be remembered. When the puck drops on the BCIHL regular season against the Simon Fraser University Clan this Saturday night, the 2016-2017 edition of the Selkirk College Saints will be setting their collective sights on the future and getting to work on the “Drive For Five.”
Team captain Tyler Kerner and the Selkirk College Saints begin their quest for a fifth straight British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) championship this Saturday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex against the Simon Fraser University Clan. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. where the team will first raise the 2015-2016 championship banner before the puck drops on the new season.
“I can’t predict what is going to happen, all we can do is prepare the best way possible,” says Head Coach Brent Heaven, who returns to his post behind the bench for the second season. “The players all have their own identified roles on the team, so if everybody is on the same page and we weather the adversity that is going to come… we have the right group here and we are confident we can win our fifth consecutive championship. But there are a lot of things that are going to happen between now and then.”
This year’s roster will feature a mix of 16 veterans and 10 BCIHL rookies. During the off-season, Heaven and his coaching staff signed players that know what it takes to be successful both on the ice and off.
“The biggest thing is the type of people we are bringing into the program,” Heaven says of a key element to ongoing success. “Obviously we have a lot of skill, but we have a lot of really good character guys. Character is what brings a team together and helps you battle through adversity. If you have a hugely skilled team, but they are a bunch of individuals who don’t really care for each other… when you get into the grind and face adversity, those guys tend to try to do things themselves. We have guys who will battle for their teammates, so when the adversity comes, they really show their true colours.”
High Octane Offense Returns
Last year’s Selkirk College Saints club finished first in the BCIHL regular season standings with a firebrand offense that scored the most goals in the league. Leading the way will be Dallas Calvin, Ryan Edwards and Dane Feeney—who all finished top-10 in scoring—but it will be the depth in the offense that will give the opposition fits.
Despite losing three key defenceman from last year's team, Nathan Browne and this year's defensive corps will be up to the task.
“We will be a very similar team to what we had last year,” says Heaven. “We have a lot of skill and this year we have a large group of returning forwards. That bodes well for the way we can play on the offensive side of the puck.”
Defensively, the Saints lost three key blueliners to graduation with the departure of former captain Tanner Lenting, Arie Postmus and Cody Bardock. Five top-notch recruits will join league veterans Nathan Browne, Ashton McLeod and Richard Gratz on a defensive corps that will play a different style than last season.
“Our d-men will be a lot more involved in the offensive side of the game and the transitional side of the game,” says Heaven. “We have great skaters and puck-movers back there this year.”
Between the pipes, the Saints lost all-star goaltender James Prigione to graduation. Heaven says the three puckstoppers on the roster this year—led by second-year Brett Huber—will fill the void.
The Seventh Man Advantage
As each BCIHL season opens, the calibre of play gets higher as other teams continue to recruit players they hope will help knock Selkirk College from its perch. One of the intangibles that doesn’t show up on the scoresheet for the Saints is home ice advantage. The large crowds of students, staff and community supporters who attend games at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex factor into the overall success of the team.
The Selkirk College Saints receive the best fan support in the BCIHL with students, staff and community hockey fans filling the seats at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex.
“It’s a huge advantage to us having that tremendous support,” says Heaven. “We are a small community and that community is tied to the college. You can’t underestimate the effect of a big crowd cheering you on.”
Saturday’s home game against Simon Fraser starts at 7:00 p.m. The Saints will then hit the road for two straight weekends and return to the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex on Friday, October 28 to take on Eastern Washington University.