Four players from the Selkirk College Saints hockey program will be watching the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships with a little more interest after tangling with the Kazakhstan National Junior Team in the Lower Mainland.
Edward Lindsey, Dylan Heppler, Vince Bitonti and Tayden Woods were selected to the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League’s (BCIHL) Young Stars team that took on the Kazakhs who are preparing for the World Championships that will take place in Vancouver/Victoria starting on December 26.
Selkirk College Saints who were on the BCIHL Young Stars team that played against the Kazakhstan National Junior Team included: (L-R) Vince Bitonti, Edward Lindsey, Tayden Woods and Dylan Heppler.
“It was an honour to be able to represent the school and team,” says Lindsey, a freshman member of the team who grew up playing hockey in Castlegar. “Not only on an international level, but also being around other players on the different BCIHL teams and being able to try to showcase what we are all about here at Selkirk College.”
Kazakhstan Comes Out On Top
In the December 17 game at the Langley Events Centre, the Kazakhs came out on top with a 2-0 victory in a hard fought contest. Kazakhstan outshot the BCIHL Young Stars 43-30 in the game. The Young Stars were made up of players from Selkirk College, Trinity Western University, Vancouver Island University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria.
“The pace of play was definitely fast, they were a very good skating team and was really fun to be a part of,” says freshman Heppler, who arrived to Selkirk College after playing junior with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. “I was able to play with Ed Lindsey and Tayden Woods, which made the experience that much memorable being able to take it all in and enjoy the moment with my teammates.”
Saints forward Dylan Heppler works the puck out of the defensive zone.
The Young Stars game was the third contest the Kazakhstan team played against BCIHL talent as part of their warm-up for the much-anticipated championship. Earlier in the month, the Kazakhs beat the University of Victoria 6-2 and Trinity Western University 4-3 in overtime. The Kazakhs then moved onto British Columbia Hockey League exhibition games and will open the 10-team IIHF World Junior Championships on December 27 against Finland.
“The World Juniors is something that is always on in my house every Christmas break, so I'll for sure be tuning in and paying extra attention to when Kazakhstan plays and cheering them on,” says Lindsey, who is a student in the School of University Arts & Sciences. “Hopefully we were able to help get them prepared for the tournament. And you never know, if they end up making a run and doing well, it will just make the opportunity we just had that much more memorable.”
A Lasting Hockey Memory for Participants
Both Lindsey and Heppler agree that getting the chance to play in the showcase is a post-secondary memory that will have lasting power.
“The biggest takeaway for me from the experience would be the friendships I was able to build within our own league and with Team Kazakhstan,” says Heppler, who is a student in the Millwright/Machinist Program on the Silver King Campus in Nelson. “It was also very interesting to see how the Kazakhstan team thought and played the game differently.”
Both teams gathered for a big group shot at the end of the game to celebrate the love of the game of hockey.
At the end of the game, both teams gathered for a group photo. In the middle of the photo, Lindsey and the Kazakhstan captain are smiling brightly in a scene of sporting camaraderie.
“I’ll always have great memories of the opportunity and even more appreciation for the game of hockey and the experiences I’ve had with it,” says Lindsey. “We had the chance to take some pictures with the Kazakhs and the jerseys the league made up were phenomenal, so those are nice mementos to have and be able to look back at in the future.”
The BCIHL is now on a holiday break and the Saints will get back to action early in the new year. They will host the University of Victoria at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre on the January 11 and 12 weekend.