Saints clip Eastern Washington Eagles on Banner Raising Night
A boisterous home crowd and pre-game banner raising ceremony fuelled the Selkirk College Saints to a convincing 5-1 victory over the Eastern Washington University Eagles on Friday night at the Castlegar Community Recreation Complex.
Returning to the comforts of home ice after a rough regular season start that saw the Saints drop all three games on the road, the two-time defending BC Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) champions got back on track.
With a crowd of more than 500 in attendance, the Saints raised the 2013-14 BCIHL banner to the rafters of the Complex and then went to work at showing why they are a threat for a three-peat.
“We had our best practices of the year in this last week, just going back to the basics and working hard,” said veteran defenceman Arie Postmus after the game.
“Our first three games of the season were unacceptable and we lost our identity a bit, but I thought tonight with the ceremony at the start it helped show all the guys what we are here for and it got us going for the whole night.”
Looking nothing like a team that entered the game in last place in the BCIHL standings, the Saints came out flying. Just over three minutes into the opening period, hulking forward Jackson Garrett pounced on a rebound and put it past EWU starter Austin Brihn.
The Saints went onto dominate the first 20 minutes, but could only solve Brihn once. Saints starting goaltender James Prigione ensured the score stayed 1-0 just over midway into the period when he stopped EWU sniper Beau Walker on a breakaway.
Four minutes into the second period, Saints captain Logan Proulx finished a nice passing play with linemate Darnell Dyck to give the home side a 2-0 advantage.
Selkirk once again dominated the middle frame, but Brihn was solid in turning 15 away shots.
Working on the team’s top line with Proulx and Dyck, Garrett finished off his hat trick early in the third period with another rebound 50 seconds in and then a nice deflection two minutes later on the powerplay.
Just over four minutes into the final period EWU’s Chase Wharton got the Eagles on the board when he scored a nice goal on the powerplay. Saints’ newcomer Alex Milligan closed out the scoring with a powerplay goal with five minutes remaining in the game.
Garrett — who was returning from a rib injury that kept out of the first three games — was named the game’s first star.
“I’m playing with two great linemates, it made it easy to come back from the injury,” Garrett said outside a jubilant Saints dressing room.
“The coaches wanted to use me in front of the net and be a big body screening. I put that upon myself to try to be there and the goals came from me doing my simple jobs and listening to the coaches.”
Another trademark of the Saints’ championship teams is defence, a trait that was on display Friday night.
“We take pride in defending,” said Postmus.
“We have a lot of vets on the backend and in those first three games we were not satisfied with our play, we weren’t tough enough. I think tonight we showed our toughness, we were hitting, everybody was blocking shots, the forwards were backchecking and we were taking that bit of extra time to make a good play up the ice.”
With the first win now in the books, the Saints are confident they are back on track.
“There wasn’t any panic, especially from the veteran group,” Garrett said of the slow start on the road.
“We know this is a long season and just because you lose the first three games of the season, it doesn’t mean your season is over at all. A championship is won in the playoffs, it’s not won in the regular season. We want to seed ourselves high, but the playoffs are where it matters.”
The Saints will travel to Langley on Friday to play Trinity Western University and return home to the Castlegar Recreation Complex on Saturday night for a rematch against EWU. The puck drops on Saturday at 7 p.m.