CASTLEGAR – If the Selkirk College Saints 2017-2018 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) home opener is any indication, it’s going to be a thrilling rollercoaster ride to the finish.
After the ceremonial season opening puck drop Friday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre, the Saints spotted the visiting Simon Fraser University Clan a 3-0 first-period lead that started just over a minute in when Daniell Lange scored top shelf on Selkirk College starter Brett Huber.
Two more goals in 30 seconds late in a period that saw the shots skewed 15-5 in favour of the Clan, put the home side in a deep hole. “I think it was opening game jitters and I’m glad we got those out of the way after the first,” said Saints first-year forward Derek McPhail. “We got stuck playing their game in the first 20 minutes and in the dressing room, we talked about working as a group from the d-zone forward. That’s what we did and it worked.”
The trademark of Saints’ hockey is tenacious work ethic and two minutes into the middle frame, it paid off when Derek Georgopoulous stole the puck and got it to McPhail who scored his first BCIHL goal to get Selkirk College on the board. Midway through the period, second-year Saints defenceman Seth Schmidt converted on the powerplay to cut the SFU lead to 3-2. It was at that point that the home crowd became a factor.
“It’s hard for the crowd to stay in it when you go down 3-0 that early, but the fans did a great job of helping us out and we brought them back into it through the way we came out in the second period,” said Saints’ captain Dallas Calvin.
With just over four minutes left in the second period, hard work by Calvin in the SFU zone resulted in a turnover and a nice pass to McPhail who scored his second goal of the game to tie the score at threes. With time running out in the second period, Calvin again used his reach to poke a puck away from a Clan defenceman that went to Parker Sharp who beat SFU starter, Lyndon Stanwood.
The second period featured plenty of back-and-forth action, but Huber stood tall in a period that saw the Saints outshoot their visitors by the slim margin of 12-11.
Second-year Saints defenceman Gordon Campbell added insurance seven minutes into the third period when his shot from the point beat Stanwood to make the score 5-3. With 41 seconds left in the game, Calvin scored into the empty SFU net to halt any hope for the Clan.
The victory was a solid team effort, but the Saints’ top line of McPhail, Calvin and Georgopoulos showed chemistry that elevated the entertainment value for the substantial crowd that came to support the student-athletes.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” McPhail said of Calvin. “If you are open, he’s going to find you and if there is an open lane to the net for him then that’s usually a scoring chance for us.”
Though still early in the season, Calvin is optimistic the team has made up for the loss of Ryan Edwards who was a major part of the team’s offence for three years before graduating last spring.
“Derek is a super skilled guy and you just have to get him the puck,” said Calvin, a Trail native who is a student in the Business Administration Program. “When you work that hard and you are that talented… good things will come.”
The Saints return to action this Saturday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre when they host the Eastern Washington University Eagles starting at 7 p.m. in the first game of a weekend home-and-home.