The Selkirk Saints Men’s Hockey Team opened the exhibition season with a pair of hard fought and exciting games against the Trail Smoke Eaters in a showcase providing a taste of what’s to come for the new season.
The inter-league set matched the two-time defending British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) champions against the region’s only British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) squad. The outcome was two intense games that tested the talent of both clubs.
Saturday night was a fitting finish to a great weekend of hockey as the Smokies triumphed over the Saints with a 5-4 double overtime victory at the Cominco Arena. A quick pace and end-to-end action in the third and overtime periods made up for the mediocre first and second frames.
The Smoke Eaters came out with a vengeance and controlled play early earning 1-0 and 3-1 leads in each of the first two periods. Craig Zuccarini, Craig Martin and Dallas Calvin potted goals for the home team while Jackson Garrett notched a goal for Selkirk. The Saints came alive in the third, scoring three times on goals from Matt Martin and Mason Spear. Brendan Volpe tallied for Trail which knotted the game, sending it to overtime.
“We didn’t start the game the way any team would want to,” said new Saints head coach Alex Evin. “We had slow feet in our zone and didn’t compete our hardest to win any puck battles, especially when we had numbers. However, we have to give Trail credit because they played with a lot of intensity, which complemented their speed and skill very well.
“Our goaltenders Mike Vlanich and James Prigione kept the game within reach with some huge saves throughout the game and it allowed us to claw back and make a game of it in the second half.”
Midway through the second overtime period which included back-and-forth three on three action, the Smokies’ persistence paid off when Martin scored his second of the night off a beautiful feed from Zane Shartz. Both teams traded multiple scoring chances that included a penalty shot save by 16-year-old Smokies netminder Solomon Burk who came into the game in the third period to make his Junior A debut.
Both teams introduced each other during an epic battle Friday night at the Castlegar Community Complex. A crowd of more than 400 was treated to a fast paced game from beginning to end, including big hits and great goals. Selkirk earned a hard fought 7-4 victory increasing their impressive unbeaten home game streak to 30 games.
Newcomer Ryan Edwards led the way for the Saints with a hat trick while Ryan Henderson, Tylor Branzsen, Darnell Dyck and Thomas Hardy added singles. Scoring for the Smoke Eaters was Zuccarini, Ryan Swanson and Keenan Scott. The Saints’ goaltending duties were shared by Prigione and Steven Glass.
“I hope everyone in attendance enjoyed these hockey games,” said Evin. “They were intense and fast. Both had exciting finishes and both teams respect one another. We wish the Smokies a great season and will support them any way we can.”