The Selkirk College Saints have laid the perfect foundation for a fourth straight British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) championship run and starting Friday night will build towards the ultimate ending.
The Saints put an exclamation mark on their regular season title on Saturday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre with a 4-1 win over the Eastern Washington University Eagles. The accomplishment of first overall cements home ice advantage for the entire BCIHL post-season that begins with a best-of-three series against the University of Victoria Vikes this weekend.
At the Selkirk College Saints final regular season game on Saturday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre, the team recognized its graduating players prior to the game who include (L-R) Arie Postmus, Steven Glass, James Prigione, Tylor Branzen, Steven Pantazopoulos, Jonas Horvath and Tanner Lenting. The Saints begin the BCIHL playoffs this Friday night at home against the University of Victoria Vikes starting at 7 p.m.
“The hard work comes in the next couple of weeks and we are looking forward to getting that going,” says Saints captain Tanner Lenting. “We have the group in here to do it, it’s just going to be up to us to make it happen.”
The Saints hold a 5-1 record against the Vikes this season, but the visitors come into Castlegar as the hottest team in the league having won five games in a row. UVIC’s line-up features senior Shawn Mueller who finished third in league scoring and Nelson resident Carsen Willans who ended up eighth spot in the regular season point totals.
The best-of-three starts on Friday night the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday night at the same time. If necessary, the third game will take place on Sunday with the puck dropping at 6 p.m.
“The playoffs are a battle and we are going to have to be at our best,” says Saints third-year goaltender James Prigione. “Victoria is a very good team and they put lots of pucks to the net, but our upper hand is our hard work. Our team has a lot of depth and when everybody plays their role, we are successful.”
Eastern Washington Provides Solid Test
In Saturday’s regular season finale, the visitors came into the game in last place and knowing they would not be playing in the post-season. That didn’t stop Eastern Washington from playing for pride and they came out flying, outshooting the Saints 11-8 in the first 20 minutes that remained scoreless.
Though the Eagles continued to control play in the second period, Saints starting goaltender Steven Glass was solid between the pipes. With seven minutes left in the second period, Saints’ rookie sensation Dallas Calvin scored the first goal of the game on the powerplay.
Selkirk College Saints goaltender Steven Glass was solid in net during the first and second period when Eastern Washington controlled the play.
Four minutes into the final period, Selkirk forward Troy Maclise made it 2-0 and Calvin added his second goal of the game five minutes later. The Eagles got on the board with just over six minutes left in the game when Josh Rolfe made it 3-1, but Ryan Edwards scored into the empty net to make the final 4-1.
“It’s nice to get in there,” says Glass, who notched his first win of the season and was named the game’s second star. “Eastern Washington had something to prove and they played a good game. For me, our team has great intensity in practice and it’s not too difficult to step into games like that.”
Saints Out to Solidify Place in League History
Player turnover at the college level is one of the primary challenges for team management, but Selkirk College has managed to build a program based on sustained winning. Now poised to chase a fourth straight championship, the players credit the atmosphere that surrounds the team as a key ingredient in success.
“The culture here is important,” says forward Steven Pantazopoulos, who arrived to the Saints from Thompson Rivers University in the 2014-2015 season and is gunning for his third championship. “In my first year, right away I realized that everybody is here to work hard. If you work hard then you get rewarded and if you instill that into the next group of guys it becomes a snowball effect.”
Selkirk College Saints forwards Dallas Calvin and Ryan Edwards were vital components of the team's offence during the regular season. On Saturday night against Eastern Washington both players were once again a factor in the final outcome.
The community has embraced the Saints over the last four seasons and the players feed off the large crowds that assemble for all the home games.
“There is nothing better than playing at home, especially in this rink and with our fans,” says third-year defenceman Arie Postmus. “If we work hard and do what we are capable of, we should come out on top.”
If the Saints win the semi-final series, they will also host the league final which will feature the winner of the Simon Fraser University/Trinity Western University series. The league final series is set for the March 18-20 weekend.