The Selkirk College Saints will welcome back four alumni to Castlegar this Saturday night, but friendly handshakes and reminiscences will be saved for off the ice.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners pay a first-ever visit to the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre and the line-up of the expansion British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) team boasts four players familiar to Selkirk College hockey fans. Last season’s captain Tyler Kerner will be joined by Alex Milligan, Garrett Halls and Jordan Rauser representing their new Nanaimo-based school.
“It will be an exciting night and I’ll be happy to see those guys back in the area,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “They will obviously be amped up to play in front of their old home crowd and show us what they got.”
Both Kerner and Milligan played three seasons for the Saints where their gritty play helped Selkirk College to a pair of BCIHL championships in 2015 and 2016. Halls and Rauser were staples on the Saints blueline last season bringing a strong physical presence to every shift.
“They were all important contributors to our line-up last season,” says Heaven. “I’m looking forward seeing them and catching up a little, but once we get on the ice it’s a different story. We are out there to win a hockey game and friendships will go to the side.”
The Saints are currently on a three-game winning streak which began with a season opening 6-3 victory over Simon Fraser University and a pair of wins over Eastern Washington University Eagles this past weekend. The Saints crushed the Eagles 7-0 on Saturday night at home and then escaped with a 3-2 win in Cheney, Washington on Sunday afternoon.
“It was great to get a big win at home,” Heaven says of the Saturday home win. “Obviously the game was tilted one way and that’s because we had a real solid effort from the entire team. We had good goal scoring from different players and [Brett] Huber was solid in net when he had to be.”
First-year Saints forward Derek McPhail notched a hat-trick in the Saturday game with singles going to Dallas Calvin, Tyler Hartman, Derek Georgopoulos and Dane Feeney.
The Saints didn’t take their foot off the gas in the Sunday afternoon game, but one player made the score seem a lot closer than it should have been.
“We played excellent and their goaltender Austin Brin had a fantastic game for them, to get 57 shots on net and only get three past him is indicative of the way he played,” Heaven says of the road game. “It was an important game for our guys because we absolutely dominated and you get into these kinds of situations where a goaltender plays like that, you can’t get frustrated and you have to chip away.”
Calvin scored the first goal of the game midway through the first period and Eagles forward Colton St. John tied it up late in the period when he beat Saints starter Patrick Zubick. Despite 42 shots on the Eagles net in the first two periods, the tie held until seven minutes remaining in the game when Brady Ward scored to give the Saints the lead. Georgopoulos added insurance with just under two minutes remaining.
“It’s still early in the season,” Heaven says of the strong start. “It can change in a hurry and we need to simply prepare for each game as it comes and make sure the players continue to work on the systems. We will continue to grow as a group and become closer which is an important part of building success.”
The Saints welcome the Vancouver Island University Mariners to the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 p.m.