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Wild Weekend on the Island for Selkirk College Saints

Selkirk College Saints second-year forward Dylan Heppler scored two goals and added an assist during Friday’s thrilling 7-6 victory over the University of Victoria Vikes on Vancouver Island. The Saints next home weekend takes place on November 8 and 9 at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre. — Photo courtesy Selkirk College Saints

 If the Selkirk College Saints were looking for a key early-season bonding weekend full of memorable takeaways, they hit the mark on their latest trip to Vancouver Island.

The Saints journeyed west for a pair of British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) games and returned home with a 7-6 barnburner win over the University of Victoria Vikes on Friday night and a thrilling 5-4 overtime shootout victory against the Vancouver Island University Mariners on Saturday.

“The on-ice wildness matched the off-ice wildness,” says Saints head coach Dave Hnatiuk. “The weekend included ferry delays on Friday night because of high winds and then a bus break down on Saturday on the way to the game. On the ice there were comebacks, a couple of blown leads and a wild 14-round shootout.”

The Saints came into the weekend with a 2-2 season record and looking to build on a pair of home wins. When the team’s bus pulled into the ferry terminal on Friday afternoon, high winds on the coast put sailings on hold. The scheduled 7:30 p.m. start was moved to 8:15 p.m. as the Saints scrambled to get to the Ian Stewart Complex in Victoria.

With their pre-game routine in tatters, the Saints managed to channel their adrenaline into a quick 2-0 lead when Dallas Goodwin and Garrett Hilton scored for Selkirk College. A free-wheeling first period continued with the Saints managing to build a 5-2 lead after 20 minutes with additional goals from Dylan Heppler, Blake Sidoni and Nolan Percival.

An equally dramatic second period saw the Vikes score four unanswered goals in the first 15 minutes of the middle frame to forge a 6-5 lead. With four minutes left in the second, Saints captain Parker Wakaruk scored on the powerplay to send the teams into the dressing room tied at 6-6. Heppler notched his second goal of the game in a much tighter third period and Saints goaltender Tallon Kramer turned away all 10 Victoria shots to preserve the 7-6 win.

“The mindset can’t change when disruptions happen before the game, the players need to get themselves ready to play mentally,” Hnatiuk says. “You have to get ready to go play, go out there and work, and win some hockey games. The guys responded awesome.”

On Saturday, the Saints headed north on the Island Highway to Nanaimo to take on rival Vancouver Island University. On the way from the hotel to the Nanaimo Ice Centre, the bus broke down and they were stranded by the side of the road for an hour while the team waited for a city bus to take them to the rink. Like the night before, the players had very little time to prepare for the game.

After a scoreless first period, the home side came bursting out of the dressing room and scored three goals in a four-minute span in a period that the Mariners would toss 18 shots on Saints starter Kramer. Edward Lindsey got the Saints on the board with six minutes left in the middle stanza and his marker was followed with goals by Jaiden LaPorte and Sidoni.

In the third period, the Mariners scored early on the powerplay to gain the 4-3 advantage. In an intense period, Lindsey registered his second of the game with only 30 seconds remaining to tie the contest and send it into overtime. After a safe overtime, the teams went to an epic 14-player shootout that wasn’t solved until Wakaruk blasted a shot past VIU goaltender Jeremy Balyk to empty the Saints bench in celebration.

“Parker has been playing great for us all year, it was fitting that he would finish it off and unleash his booming shot,” says Hnatiuk.

Key to the Saints four-point weekend was a balanced scoring attack that saw eight different players find the twine, timely saves by Kramer and only four minor penalties.

“It was a great job all around, both wins were definitely team wins,” says Hnatiuk. “There were some great individual performances at different times, but our success was because we played as a team and worked as a team.”

With the heart-pumping weekend now in the books, the Saints will prepare to host the Trinity Western Spartans on November 8 and 9 at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre. The Spartans are the defending BCIHL champions and off to another great start this season, but Hnatiuk is confident his crew will be up to the challenge.

“I’m not going to put them up on a pedestal,” Hnatiuk says of the Spartans. “We will prepare for them over the coming week, we will focus on getting better and cleaning up a few aspects of our game. It doesn’t matter who you play, we will just keep on moving forward.”

The games against Trinity Western University are the only home weekend contests in November for the Saints. They host Simon Fraser University on December 6 and 7.