The Selkirk College Saints are still a long way from the ultimate British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) destination, but the ride so far has been packed with success.
The Saints brought an eight-game regular season winning streak into the long weekend. After defeating the Trinity Western University Spartans 5-2 at home on Friday night and the Eastern Washington University Eagles 4-2 at Cheney on Sunday afternoon, the Saints record remains unblemished.
“I think resilience has been the biggest factor in the first 10 games,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “The way we are playing right now, we know that we can win any game. There is always adversity, but you need to play consistent and work for your rewards.”
The second-place Spartans arrived to the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex on Friday night for their first match-up of the season against the first-place Saints. Saints forward Brandon Sookro started the scoring two minutes in with a pretty goal in tight that beat Spartans starter Lucas Mills. Derek McPhail then added a powerplay marker with seven minutes left in the period to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
Trinity Western answered first in the middle frame when Kenny Batke beat Saints starter Patrick Zubick. Goals by Nelson Hurry and Parker Sharp then restored the Saints lead to 4-1 before the end of the second period. Trinity Western made it interesting late in the third period when Brayden Brown scored to make it 4-2, but captain Dallas Calvin put the game away with an empty net goal to preserve the win.
Trinity Western outshot the Saints 31-26 in the game and forced Zubick to come up big on several occasions, particularly in the final period.
“With either guy in net, our team is playing extremely confident in front of them,” Heaven says of Zubick and Brett Huber. “The team knows that both of them are able to make the big save when we need it. They have been doing it for us and the results are showing in the standings right now.”
With the addition of goaltender coach Alex Ross, the Saints are putting strong focus on a position that is key to a championship season. Zubick returned to his hometown of Castlegar after helping the Dryden Ice Dogs win a junior championship in Ontario last season and has been solid in his first BCIHL season. Huber, who is in his third year with the Saints, was named the BCIHL goaltender of the month for October.
“They are sharing the load and the pressure doesn’t pile on their shoulders,” Heaven says of the tandem. “Both of them are able to help this team succeed and that has been a big attribute so far this season. What’s also very important is they are building a strong relationship, they are battling for each other and not against each other.”
On Sunday afternoon in Cheney, Washington, the Saints once again jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Sookro and Jack Mills. Eastern Washington tied the score in the second period with a pair of powerplay goals that came courtesy of five-on-three advantages. In the third period, the swarming Saints attack didn’t allow for an Eagles shot until 13 minutes had passed in the final frame. Goals by McPhail and Tyler Hartman secured the team’s tenth win.
One of the keys to the Saints’ success to this point is a potent offence. Seven different players scored a goal over the weekend.
“We have 10 to 12 guys who can put the puck into the net on any night,” says Heaven. “Obviously we have Dallas Calvin and teams will focus in on him, but then they tend to forget about these other guys.”
Calvin’s blistering start has the Trail native leading the league in points with eight goals and 16 helpers. With both Trinity Western and Eastern Washington matching lines against the unit of Calvin, McPhail and Derek Georgopoulos, more attention is being shone on the Saints’ top line.
“That line will have to battle through situations like that all season,” Heaven says of the extra attention. “When you have a guy who is averaging 2.5 points a game, I don’t think any opposing team is going to let a guy like that skate around free out there.”
The Saints will not return to the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex until January 12 and 13 when Trinity Western returns to the West Kootenay. The Selkirk College squad will now play the remaining four games of the semester on the road against four different coastal-based teams.
“These are big games because we have a five-week break at Christmas,” Heaven says of two upcoming away weekends. “These road games will help set the tone for what happens in the second half of the season. We’ve been on a good streak to start, but ultimately it’s about building a process and continuing to improve. It can quickly turn around on you, so we need to ensure we continue to play with emotion and intensity. You don’t want to sit back because every game in this league is important.”
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