The Selkirk College Saints stumbled out of the playoff blocks this past weekend resulting in a two-game sweep in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) semi-finals at the hands of the Vancouver Island University Mariners.
Dylan McCann scored 53 seconds into the series opener on Friday night to set a tone that kept the Saints on their heels in front of a home crowd at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex for the majority of the weekend. The Mariners triumphed 6-1 in Game One of the series and then ended the Selkirk College season on Saturday night with a 3-2 victory in Game Two.
“It’s difficult to end the season in that way,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “But I’m proud of the way team bounced back and responded on Saturday night, we definitely left it all out on the ice.”
Despite falling behind 2-0 early in the opening period on Friday night, Sebastian Powsey cut the lead with just under seven minutes left in the first. That was as close as the Saints would get with VIU controlling the play for the final two periods and coming away with the crucial Game One win.
With the season on the line, the Saints came out hard in Game Two on Saturday night, but it was the Mariners who got on the board first when Ryan Coghlan scored on Selkirk College starter Tallon Kramer. Edward Lindsey tallied just over five minutes into the middle frame to tie the score at 1-1, but former Saints captain Tyler Kerner got the lead back for VIU before the end of the second.
The Saints dominated the third period, but failed to beat Mariners starter Matt Huber. With the score 2-1 and the Selkirk College net empty, Gavin Rauser scored to make it 3-1. Saints first-year forward Tayden Woods managed to get that goal back with 49 seconds remaining in the game and despite a spirited effort the home side couldn’t tie game.
“We came out a little flat on Friday night and it wasn’t a solid effort,” says Heaven. “When you give away a game like that in a short series, it can be devastating and obviously it was for us.”
Though disappointed to miss a trip to the league championship series, the 2018-2019 season was one where a young Saints team exceeded expectations in many ways. With more than half the team rookies, the team managed a solid second place finish in the regular season with seven of the top-10 team leading scorers in their first year.
In the league awards announced just prior to the post-season, Saints players occupied five of the 12 all-star team selections with Eddie Lindsey (first team), Dylan Heppler (second team), Parker Wakaruk (second team), Jackson Bruce-Fuoco (second team) and goaltender Patrick Zubick (second team) recognized for their play. Heaven was named BCIHL Coach of the Year and play-by-play announcer Rob Squires was selected as Broadcaster of the Year.
“A lot of our players came into this season without really any true indication about what the league is about,” says Heaven. “The disappointment is still pretty fresh for the players, but now a lot of these guys have a better understanding about the quality of this league and what it takes to have success.”
Vancouver Island University now takes on Trinity Western University in the best-of-three league championship final that goes this coming weekend in Langley. Trinity Western defeated the Saints in the 2018 league championship last March to claim their first provincial title.