The Selkirk Saints continued their impressive run of exhibition games tonight in Castlegar taking down the Trinity Western University Spartans 5 – 1 Saturday, Sept. 28 after also shutting out the Langley team 4 – 0 in Nelson on Friday.
The Saints lead the BCIHL pre-season with five wins, two losses and one overtime loss in the eight games they’ve played to date; some teams have already begun the regular season.
The Saints had an impressive third period in Nelson, opening the scoring on two power play goals before adding two more before the end of regulation.
Saturday’s matchup was the final exhibition game for the Selkirk College squad, who will begin their BCIHL defence against Eastern Washington University Eagles on Friday, Oct 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Castlegar Community Complex.
The Spartans got their only goal of the game by striking first on the power play after a roughing call to Saints #21-Garrett Kucher. Spartans forward #3-J.P. Villeneuve tossed in a rebound on starting goaltender James Prigione but that seemed to be the first-period spark that lit the Saints fuse.
Fortunes changed quickly for the Saints as defenceman Dan Stollery went to the box for roughing with 2:09 to play in the first and #25-Beau Taylor buried a shot to level the game at one.
Just 32 seconds into the second, #18-Scott Swiston made it a 2 – 1 Saints lead in what would prove to be the game winner. The game got a little chippy and Saints forward Markus McCrae received a four-minute minor for roughing that his team was able to successfully kill. Darnell Dyck added another for the Saints at 8:15 and that’s where things stood entering the third.
The Spartans appeared a little tired and perhaps outmatched in the third and Selkirk applied a ton of pressure, ultimately more than doubling the visiting team on the shot clock.
Saints captain #27-Logan Proulx scored was was arguably the game’s prettiest goal on a play that saw him sweep in on goal and slide a backhand in for a 4 – 1 lead. The Saints added another with under nine minutes to play in a dominating two-game performance.
In an interview prior to Saturday’s game, Spartans head coach Barret Kropf said the pre-season has been a bit hit-and-miss.
“It’s been okay up to this point, we’ve had some key injuries from three or four of our top players, nothing too major,” he said.
Asked about the 4 – 0 shutout loss in Nelson on Friday, Kropf said his team got scrambling in their own end a few times and the Saints took advantage of it. The same held true on Saturday.
“I think our guys just need to focus on a 60-minute effort,” he said. “When we played Thompson Rivers a couple of weeks ago, we put a full 60 on the board and came out with a win, so I think if our guys are able to do that tonight we should find a little more success than last night.”
The Trinity Western team may end up being the most well-travelled BCIHL team this year, with an upcoming excursion to the Baltics.
“Several of our athletes went to the Baltics with Athletes in Action in May,” said Kropf. “We were there for two weeks. We had gathered players from a bunch of other teams across the country, NCAA and what-not. This Christmas, the Trinity Western Spartans, 27 players, are actually going on more of a Baltic tour.”
The team will be flying in for a game in Lithuania before going to Latvia and Estonia.
“It sounds crazy,” laughed Kropf. “But it’s actually a shorter trip going from Lithuania to Estonia than it would be going from Langley to here.”
Kropf said the ice, facilities and competition are up to the standards they see here in Canada.
“We play against their top teams in each of the countries and in each country there tends to be a KHL team of the Russian league but we play against their first division team, so it would maybe be equivalent to an East Coast Hockey League calibre,” he said. “It’s a team-building thing. We have a long break there at Christmas between the first and second semesters and we want to make sure our guys are getting some action. Going across the pond like that is a chance for the guys to get some international experience and really expand their world view. It’s not they’re in Kansas anymore.”
The players, who will be leaving Christmas Day, will be working with a number of churches and their youth and also visiting orphanages with sports equipment.
The Selkirk Saints will start their BCIHL defence against Eastern Washington University Eagles on Friday, Oct 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Castlegar Community Complex.