If the Selkirk College Saints are successful in capturing their fifth-straight British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) title, this season they will need to do it on the road.
The four-time defending league champions won both weekend games against the University of Victoria Vikes at the Castlegar and District Recreation Centre, but struggles earlier this semester have entrenched the Saints in third place. With one weekend remaining in the regular season, the Saints will travel to either Trinity Western University or Simon Fraser University to begin defence of their title when the post-season begins on March 10. Since the Saints began their unprecedented run in 2013, they have always played playoff host and captured the provincial championship in front of home fans.
“It’s all about winning hockey games, whether you are playing at home or on the road,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “We are more focused on getting our systems in place and getting the guys in tune with their roles and responsibilities.”
The weekend series against the Vikes was the opportunity the Saints needed to get back on track as they prepare for the playoffs. After coping with a three-game losing streak in early-February, the two victories against Victoria helped build a three-game winning streak. “It was a good weekend for everyone,” Saints assistant captain Alex Milligan says of the back-to-back 4-3 victories over the Vikes. “Coming out of that little slump we had where we couldn’t buy a win, it was important to bring a solid effort into these two games and I think everyone is happy with the results.”
In Friday’s contest against the Vikes, it was the visitors who struck first when ex-pro Patrick Holland scored on Saints starter Brett Huber less than five minutes into the game. Troy Maclise quickly responded for the Saints to tie the score at 1-1. The Saints took a 3-2 lead in the second period courtesy of goals from Jonas Horvath and Jack Mills. The teams exchanged markers in the final period with the Saints holding on for the victory.
Saturday’s game started much the same, with Vikes forward Noah Henry scoring on Huber less than a minute into the game. Saints captain Tyler Kerner quickly tied the game with a deflection on the power play and Matt Martin scored on a shorthanded breakaway to give the Saints a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes. Mills scored for the Saints in the second frame and rookie forward Kadrian Klimchuk scored his first ever BCIHL goal early in the third for what would hold up as the game-winner.
With a season-ending injury to sniper Dallas Calvin, and offensive-minded forwards Dane Feeney and Derek Georgopoulos both currently out of the line-up, the Saints have had to dig a little deeper for point production. Over the course of the weekend, the Saints received goals from seven different players.
“We are not the same skill team as we are with those players in the line-up,” says veteran Saints forward Ryan Edwards. “Everyone has to step, work harder and get the greasy goals.”
Edwards’ line-mate agrees that scoring has become a bigger challenge for the Saints, but the tenacious pace Selkirk College sets makes up for the loss of offensive punch.
“Missing those players provides a little more pressure, but at the same it gives other players a lot of opportunity where guys can slide in and fill new roles,” says Milligan. “This weekend was a great example where a lot of guys got their name on the score sheet. It’s good to see guys scoring that usually don’t because we are going to need that for the rest of the season.”
The Saints will play their last home game of the 2016-2017 campaign this coming Friday at the Castlegar and District Recreation Centre when they host the Eastern Washington University Eagles starting at 7 p.m. The two teams will conclude the regular season on Saturday night with a game in Cheney, Wash.