The Selkirk College Saints are spreading their wings across the region this coming weekend for a pair of games in Beaver Valley and Nelson as the team eyes a strong finish to the first half of the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season.
With a strong contingent of former Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) alumni on this year’s roster, the game on Saturday night at the Beaver Valley Arena and Sunday night at Nelson & District Recreation Complex will be a sort of homecoming when they take on the Vancouver Island University Mariners.
“The success we have had as a team over the last few years owes a lot to places like Beaver Valley, Nelson and the other communities in our region,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “It’s a good opportunity to show our brand of hockey to the areas that have helped us produce such a good program.”
This year’s Saints’ squad includes six former Beaver Valley Nitehawks with Dylan Heppler, Tallon Kramer, Tyler Hartman Devin Nemes, Nolan Percival and Kadrian Klimchuk all making the jump to post-secondary hockey after suiting up for the perennial KIJHL powerhouse. Both Percival and defenceman Cole Arcuri grew up playing Nelson Minor Hockey and also started their junior careers with the KIJHL’s Nelson Leafs.
In addition to Nelson and Beaver Valley, a total of 14 of the 21 players on the roster have significant KIJHL experience as former members of the Castlegar Rebels and Creston Valley Thunder Cats. With the top talent in Junior B making the jump to college hockey, one-time rivals are now friends.
“It’s one of the great aspects of hockey at this level,” says Heaven. “These guys have competed against each other pretty intensely in the past and then all of a sudden they are sitting beside each other in the dressing room. Now they are competing with each other and are good friends, that’s the beauty about the game of hockey.”
The Saints have always mined the region’s best and provided an opportunity for young athletes to pursue their educational goals while continuing to play the game they love.
One of the student-athletes who began his post-secondary journey at Selkirk College is Dallas Calvin, a junior hockey standout with the Nitehawks who helped lead the Saints to a league championship during his rookie season in 2016. After three years with the Saints, Calvin transferred to Vancouver Island University at the start of this season where he is completing his degree and currently leading the BCIHL in scoring.
“It’s always a little bit weird to see these guys in a different jersey and coach against them,” says Heaven, who will also watch former Saints Alex Milligan, Tyler Kerner and Jordan Rauser suit up in a Mariners’ jersey over the weekend. “But for these men who get an opportunity to go on and finish their degree, it’s obviously a great situation for them and a great accomplishment for our program. These players have had an impact on that program and are an important part of their success, but when they come here and we play against them… we want to win. We can have some laughs, a hug and handshake when the game is over, but when we are at the rink it will be intense and fiery.”
After a slow start to the 2018-2019 campaign, the Saints (4-3-0-3) have been one of the hottest teams in the league over the last four where they have earned seven of eight points. This weekend’s set against the Mariners (6-4-0-1) will be an important test to end the first semester of play. Heaven says it’s the perfect opportunity for hockey fans in both Beaver Valley and Nelson to check out college hockey at its best.
“It’s high pace and intensity in this league,” says Heaven, who also has KIJHL coaching experience with both the Castlegar Rebels and Creston Valley Thunder Cats. “Both of these teams are very highly skilled, so there should be a lot of really good quality hockey. It will be an enjoyable game to watch and hopefully after this weekend even more hockey fans will come watch this team play in Castlegar when we return home for the second half of the season.”
The puck drops both Saturday (December 1) in Beaver Valley and Sunday (December 2) in Nelson at 7 p.m.