The Selkirk College Saints made an important leap forward in the quest to host the first round of the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) playoffs with a weekend sweep of the University of Victoria Vikes.
Needing a four-point weekend to edge up in the standings, the Saints topped the Vikes 4-2 on Friday night and then made good on their goal by taking out Victoria 5-2 on Saturday night before home fans at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre.
“We came into the weekend wanting to get full points and get ourselves back into the hunt for home-ice in the playoffs,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “At times we were not playing as well as we wanted to, but our goaltenders played phenomenal and held us in the games. When that happens, it gives the offensive side a chance to get the goals we need. Those two wins are great for our program and hopefully we can continue the trend moving forward.”
In Friday night’s opener, the Vikes shook off bus-legs and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening nine minutes of the game. The Saints did not register a shot on Vikes starter Michael Fredrick until the 10:04 mark when freshman Nolan Percival connected on a nice two-on-one with linemate Devin Nemes to cut the deficit in half. Before the end of the opening frame, forward Edward Lindsey tied the game while the Saints were on the powerplay.
Saints starting goaltender Patrick Zubick then went to work making several key saves in both the second and third period to keep his team afloat. Just over eight minutes into the final period, Lindsey notched what would be the game-winner when he was sent on a partial breakaway and made a nice move to beat Fredrick five-hole.
With the Vikes goaltender pulled for more than two minutes, Zubick was outstanding in preserving the lead and with just over 30 seconds left in the game Dylan Heppler stole the puck to provide the insurance marker.
Saturday night, the Vikes again came out the stronger team in an opening period that saw no scoring by either side. Saints starter Tallon Kramer stopped 11 shots to keep the game scoreless.
Nemes opened the scoring just over three minutes into the middle stanza and six minutes later Kadrian Klimchuck made the score 2-0 for the home side. Vikes forward Ben Raffler cut that lead just over a minute later, but Landon Walters scored with five minutes left in the second to send Selkirk College to the dressing room with a 3-1 lead.
The Vikes pressed hard in the third period, scoring midway through the stanza to cut the lead and add drama to the final 10 minutes. With Kramer providing solid goaltending, Nemes scored his second goal of the game with just over two minutes left and new addition Sawyer Hunt netted the insurance one minute later.
“The guys got so fired-up in the dressing room before both games, it looked like their energy was going to explode through the roof. Then they got out there and were flat for the first 10 minutes of each game,” Heaven says of the slow starts that resulted in the Vikes outshooting the Saints in both games. “That’s something we will need to work on.”
The two weekend wins pulled the third place Saints within one point of second place Vancouver Island University in the BCIHL standings. When the BCIHL post-season begins in early-March, only the top two teams host the first round. Though first place in the league seems unlikely with Trinity Western University currently holding an eight-point edge at the top, the Saints will now get to work on making a further move over the final eight games of the regular season.
“We will continue to push and prepare ourselves to do anything we can to get that home ice advantage,” says Heaven, adding that his team’s confidence at home in front of a supportive crowd is a distinct advantage.
The Saints play their next four games on the road and return home to the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre for their final regular season home games on February 8 and 9 when they will take on Vancouver Island University.