The Trinity Western University Spartans accomplished what very few visiting British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) teams manage on a visit to the West Kootenay — a weekend sweep of the Selkirk College Saints.
In the Saints’ first action of 2018, the visitors escaped the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre with a 4-3 win on Friday night and a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday.
The sweep cements the Spartans in the first place position in the BCIHL standings, four points clear of second place Selkirk College.
“It’s a good thing that it’s happened now,” says Saints coach Brent Heaven. “We can reset the focus. We were not quite ready coming out of the holiday break and an almost six-week layoff.”
An issue all season, on Friday night the Saints spotted their visitors an early lead in the first period when Joran Rendle and Evan Last beat Selkirk College starter Patrick Zubick to make the score 2-0. The Saints came storming back in the middle frame when Derek McPhail stuffed away a rebound just over two minutes in and then captain Dallas Calvin scored a powerplay marker with a terrific shot from the point midway through the period.
In a high flying final stanza, the Spartans struck first when Florian Niedermaier broke the tie less than two minutes into the third. Three minutes later, Saints’ newcomer Logan Styler beat TWU starter Silas Matthys top corner to knot the score once again. With just over 12 minutes left in the game, Brayden Brown scored what would hold up as the game winner for TWU.
Both teams combined for 84 shots in what was a contest featuring two high octane offences and solid goaltending. Matthys was named the game’s first star and Zubick the second star.
“He [Matthys] was fantastic all weekend long and helped create some momentum swings for his team that we had hoped might come the other way,” Heaven says of the opposing goaltender. “Throwing 47 shots at the net on Friday night, we were doing as much as we could.”
In the rematch Saturday night, the Spartans again jumped out to the first period lead when Dustin Deugau beat Selkirk College starter Brett Huber. The Saints took the lead in the second period with both Calvin and first year forward Grant Iles tallying to make the score 2-1 for the home side.
Trinity Western tied the score with five minutes left in the third period and with time running out in the overtime frame, Niedermaier scored the game winner to secure the second win in as many nights for the first place Spartans.
Nine regular season games remain and the Saints now trail the Spartans by four points with one game in hand. With first place securing coveted home ice advantage for the entire playoffs, the two teams will meet one more time before the post-season when Selkirk College travels to Langley on February 17.
“It’s going to be difficult, but as I tell the guys: anything worthwhile is difficult,” Heaven says of finishing in first place. “It will be a challenge and the game we play them in February will be a big game.”
The Saints now turn their attention to the Eastern Washington University Eagles who will be the opponent for this weekend’s home-and-home set. The Eagles will visit Castlegar on Friday night and then the Saints will head south to Cheney, Washington on Sunday afternoon.
“We need to focus on the task at hand,” says Heaven. “We can’t look too far ahead and worry about where we are in the standings. If we prepare for every game, work hard and do the little things right then I feel like we have a great opportunity for success.”
Friday’s game at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre starts at 7 p.m.