Submitted to the Castlegar News
The Selkirk College Saints disposed of the University of Victoria Vikes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League semi-final over the weekend and will now compete for an unprecedented third straight league championship this weekend.
The Saints will host the best-of-three championship against the Simon Fraser University Clan. The Clan finished fourth in the BCIHL regular season, but upset number-one seed Trinity Western in the other semi-final with two straight wins. The Saints gain home ice because they are the higher ranked team.
The puck drops on Game 1 at 7 p.m. at the Castlegar Recreation Complex on Friday. Game 2 will also start at 7 p.m. on Saturday and if necessary, Game 3 will be played on Sunday (time to be determined).
Playing before a raucous home crowd last Friday, the Saints triumphed 4-3 in a thrilling overtime game and followed it up with a decisive 4-1 win Saturday to claim the series sweep.
“There’s something about playoffs… the team gets into this mentality where we want to compete hard and it’s all about work ethic,” said defenceman Lucas Hildebrand, who was a key member of the Saints teams that captured BCIHL titles in the last two seasons. “It’s fun to be a part of and I’m having a blast.”
Vikes no easy mark
Before an ample and enthusiastic crowd Friday, the Vikes jumped out to an early lead just over a minute into the game when Cameron Rowat benefitted from some hard work by Carsen Willans and scored on Saints starter James Prigione.
The Saints won all four regular season games against the Vikes, but after the first period of the post season held the 1-0 lead and the edge in play. Prigione made several key saves in the opening 20 minutes and the Saints were outshot 13-8.
Just under five minutes into the second period, Saints rookie Ryan Edwards got the crowd into the game by putting away a rebound off a shot from Ryan Procyshyn. The powerplay goal tied the game at one and it would stay that way until the end of the middle frame.
The highlight reel goal of the evening came just over a minute into the third period when Darnell Dyck was sprung on an Arie Postmus breakaway pass at the blueline and scored while being hauled down.
The lead didn’t last long, four minutes later two former Nelson Leafs combined for the Vikes when Willans scored with help from Linden Horswill.
With the Vikes Thomas Cecchi in the box for tripping Edwards on a breakaway, the Saints took advantage of the powerplay. Thomas Hardy poked the puck five-hole on Vikes starter Scott Legault on a scramble in close at the midway mark of the period to make it 3-2 Saints.
The back-and-forth third continued just over a minute later. Vikes forward Shawn Mueller beat Prigione with a shot just inside the blueline to notch the score at fours.
The Saints came into overtime determined to reward the raucous home crowd, controlling play from the start. Three minutes into the overtime, Edwards’ masterful deflection off a Tanner Lenting point shot emptied the Saints bench in a hurry.
Saints show dominant side Saturday
Another rowdy crowd turned out Saturday night and the Saints didn’t disappoint.
As they did in the first game, the Vikes showed jump in the first half of the opening period. With just over a minute left in the scoreless first, Dyck hit a streaking Logan Proulx with a pass at the blueline and the Saints captain made no mistake beating Vikes starter Legault to give the home team the advantage going into the dressing room.
Though the Saints controlled play in the second period, Legault kept his team close by making huge stops off Dyck and Edwards in the first half of the period. It was the Vikes who answered first in the middle stanza when an uncharacteristically sloppy defensive play by the Saints led to a Rowat goal with just over ten minutes to play in the period.
The lead would not even last two minutes thanks to a Matt Martin snapshot from the faceoff dot that beat Legault over the shoulder. Before the period ended, tenacious work by Mason Spear in the corner led to a Jamie Vlanich goal that made the score 3-1.
The Saints would ice the game in the final period when Spear tipped a Vlanich shot from the point on the powerplay to make the score 4-1.
“We kept it simple tonight,” said Hardy, who is in his third season with the Saints. “We went into this game knowing we had a chance to play for the championship at home, so we just kept it simple. It turned out well.”
Three-peat within reach
Since play started in the BCIHL in 2006, no team has won three straight championships. The Saints will have the opportunity to make history this weekend if they can triumph over the pesky Clan.
“Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought we would be in this position,” Hildebrand said Saturday. “When I came here, I didn’t really know what to expect. This third year has really opened up my eyes to how great this program has become.”
But he said it won’t be easy to add a third title to his resume. “Winning a championship is hard and this one is going to be at least as hard as the other ones.”