The first round of the BCIHL playoffs sees a rematch of last years opening series between the Simon Fraser University Clan and Trinity Western Spartans. TWU enters the playoffs as the top ranked team in the BCIHL whereas SFU made it into the post season as the final playoff seed. The numbers throughout the BCIHL regular season would suggest that TWU are the favourites to move onto the Championship round, but SFU has played the Spartans tough throughout the season series and have enough talent on their roster to carry out the upset.
The Spartans have multiple strengths, but the most threatening to SFU would be TWU’s ability to score and their depth. Trinity Western led the BCIHL in goals for, at 104 for the season, as well as goal differential, a gaudy plus 35. Three Spartans are also in the top ten in scoring for the entire BCIHL: Cody Fidgett, PJ Buys, and Mattias Schmitt. The three forwards combined for 105 points throughout the season. TWU’s individual talent all throughout their lineup has combined to form a team with great offensive depth and scoring prowess.
TWU also has arguably the best goaltender in the BCIHL manning the crease in Silas Matthys. Matthys boasts the best save percentage in the league and second best goals against average. Clan fans will remember last year’s series when Matthys stood on his head and stymied the machine that was SFU’s offense.
TWU’s scoring, depth, and goaltending suggests that the Langley team will be hard to beat, and rightfully so. But SFU is more than capable to take down the giants of the BCIHL.
The last two meetings between the teams featured two dominant wins by the Clan, as they outscored TWU 7-1 over the course of the two contests. In the two meetings between the clubs in January, SFU lost each game despite outshooting Trinity Western to the tune of 81-55 over 120 min. SFU also won the season series 4-3. This stat means SFU accounted for four of TWU’s seven losses, regulation and overtime losses combined, on the season. SFU may just be the last team TWU would have wanted to face in the first round.
For SFU to win the series, the Burnaby squad will have to do what made them successful against TWU during the regular season on a consistent basis. That means the keys for SFU’s series will be to enforce a heavy forecheck, score from in tight, and have strong defensive zone coverage. Forwards like Josh McKissock, Matt Luongo, and Graham Smerek will be counted on heavily to hound TWU’s talented defense over the course of the three games. A constant forecheck would stall TWU’s transition game and possibly force dangerous turnovers.
As mentioned previously, Silas Matthys is a very good goalie and he will most likely stop everything he can see. That means for SFU to beat Matthys, they will have to get in his face and try to score some dirty goals around the TWU goal. SFU did a good job of driving the net and scoring the less than glamorous tallies in their previous 2 games against Trinity Western.
SFU will need strong goaltending form either Andrew Parent or Jordan Liem, but even more important than the performance of those two is SFU’s defensive zone coverage. If TWU’s scorers are given time and space it won’t matter who’s in goal for Simon Fraser because the Spartans’ snipers can fill the back of the net. That means defensive veterans like captain Tyler Mah and Mike Ball will have to be at the top of their games in the defensive zone to limit the damage TWU can afflict.
During the playoff series, the Clan will honour former SFU AD Lorne Davies by wearing special “LD” decals on their helmets as well as having a minute of silence at SFU’s lone home game of the series.
The first round gets underway on Thursday at the Langley Events Centre with SFU’s home game going at 7pm on Friday March 6th. Game 3 will go, if necessary, at 2pm back at the LEC. Be sure to be at the Bill Copeland Arena for Game 2 of what promises to be an electric opening round of the BCIHL playoffs.