The Selkirk College Saints opened the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season by making a statement that a fourth straight league championship is in the cards.
Taking on last year’s BCIHL regular season champion Trinity Western University (TWU) Spartans on Friday night before a boisterous home crowd at the Castlegar & District Community Complex, the Saints put on display the firebrand style of hockey that has earned the team three straight BCIHL titles. The result was a 6-3 victory in the regular season opener.
The Selkirk College Saints raised the 2014-2015 BCIHL championship banner to the rafters of the Castlegar & District Community Complex prior to the regular season opener against Trinity Western University on Friday night. Before a boisterous crowd of more than 500, the Saints then went on to earn an exciting 6-3 victory.
“It was a good start to the season,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “We came out a little bit slow in the first period, but by the second period we really took control of the game. The last 40 minutes of that game were fantastic and really showed the potential that this team has.”
Saints Show Offensive Power on Friday Night
Prior to the puck drop, the Saints raised their third straight provincial banner to the rafters of the Castlegar arena that was earned this past March when they defeated Simon Fraser University in two straight games in the final series.
The reality of the new season and challenges of defending the 2015 title came quickly when the Spartans forward Matthew Vela stuffed a rebound past Saints starting goaltender James Prigione 16 seconds into the game. TWU increased the lead with just over two minutes left in the opening frame on a goal by Andrew Wheeler.
Saints veteran forward Ryan Edwards had four assists in the two games and once again showed signs that he will be one of the league's most entertaining players to watch.
Fourteen seconds after falling behind by two goals, Saints rookie Dallas Calvin scored his first BCIHL goal on a nice set-up from linemate Ryan Edwards to half the Spartans lead going into the first intermission.
The Saints came out hungry in the middle period and it only took 17 seconds for Calvin to record his second goal of the game and tie the score. Just over a minute later, the crowd of more than 500 exploded when Dane Feeney beat TWU starter Silas Matthys to give the home side a lead they would not relinquish.
Before the second ended, Calvin completed his hat trick in a period that saw the Saints outshoot the Spartans 15-1. TRU cut the lead midway through the final period, but Ryon Sookro and Marcel Fuchs added insurance to secure the opening night victory.
Slow Start on Saturday Too Much to Overcome
In the second game on Saturday night, the Saints once again dug themselves an early hole that had the home team behind 3-0 three minutes into the second period. Though they clawed back with goals by Nathan Browne, Sookro and Calvin it wasn’t enough as the visitors took the game 5-3 to earn the series split.
Despite the loss on Saturday night, Heaven says the three powerplay goals were a good sign for games to come.
The Saints were fuelled in their opening game win by a raucous crowd of 500 that included these students.
“It puts a big smile on my face every time we get an odd-man advantage in our favour,” says Heaven. “Our team is built with a lot of skill and those opportunities are when it’s showcased. There was one shift when we had the powerplay where we spent a minute and 51 seconds of the powerplay consecutively in their zone without the puck leaving. They were in total control, it was fun to just sit back and watch.”
The Saints will now hit the road for a two-game set at the University of Victoria this coming weekend. Last season, the Saints struggled away from their home rink and Heaven says it will be important to find ways to ensure there is improvement when the team travels.
“Last year we had a real hard time on the road, especially in the first half of the season,” says Heaven. “This will be a big weekend for us to go down to Victoria to set a tone for what we are going to do away from our own building. We have a great atmosphere in Castlegar whenever we play because of the tremendous fan support, the road is a little more quiet. We have to find a way to get ourselves motivated right from the get-go.”
The Saints will return home on October 24 when they take on the Eastern Washington University Eagles at the Castlegar & District Community Complex. The puck drops at 7 p.m.