Photo Credit: Garrett James
Coming back from Tempe, AZ after back-to-back games against Division I competition, the SFU Men’s Hockey Team begin the final stretch of the BCIHL regular season.
This weekend — the first of two weekends of back-to-back games remaining — the Clan face off against the University of Victoria on the road Friday, then return home the next day to face Eastern Washington.
SFU is looking to clinch first place. Though SFU will finish no lower than second, they still have Trinity Western right behind them. Trinity Western has 26 points, and with five games remaining, would finish the season with 36 points if they win out the season. With 32 points, SFU would likely clinch first place with a pair of wins this weekend.
But it won’t be easy.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said head coach Mark Coletta. “First place is the season goal and home ice advantage is what we want.”
On the first game Friday, SFU faces off against a rejuvenated UVic team. After suffering two blowout losses in January, they’ve since embarked on a three game win streak.
Though they’ve clinched the playoffs, the win streak has put another regular season goal in sight for the Vikes — taking third place from the defending champions, Selkirk College. Only one point back — though with one more game played — it’s needless to say they’ll be hungry.
They have some of the league’s most potent scorers, with three players in the BCIHL Top 10 scoring list — Shawn Mueller (first), Patrick Holland (third), and defenceman Kyle Bird (sixth).
The Vikes also added some talent for the second semester. NCAA Division I defenceman transfer Noah Henry had won a National Championship with Union College in 2014. Small, skilled forward Francis Bamford played at nearly a point-per-game pace with the Abbotsford Pilots of the PJHL, and North Van Wolf Pack alumnus Shane Kumar brings both playmaking abilities and grit with 33 points and 148 penalty minutes last season. All three have suited up for four games in January.
“UVic, you can always expect hard work and a tough game in their rink, it’s going to be a battle,” said Coletta. “We know they’ve got some tremendous hockey players. We’ve got to figure out a quick way to shut down guys like Mueller and Holland.
“And then it’s a quick turnaround, we’ve got to get on a ferry in the morning and play the next night.”
Returning to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre Saturday, SFU faces a rematch with Eastern Washington.
While it’s too late to save their playoff hopes, Eastern Washington looks like a completely different team than the one that went winless in the first semester. Getting key forwards Beau Walker and Brett Mathews back from injury has made them a threat every night.
The Eagles achieved their first victory on their first game back from the semester break — a decisive 8-0 result. Despite back-to-back losses the weekend after, Eastern Washington rebounded the very next weekend, collecting three of a possible four points against the top two teams in the league — SFU and Trinity Western.
Against SFU, they were leading until 1:44 left, when Jaret Babych scored the tying goal. Babych would also score the overtime winner. However, the next night against Trinity Western, the Eagles would get the win in a 3-2 overtime result.
Defenceman Tyler Zandhuisen featured prominently for the Eagles that weekend with a pair of highlight reel goals. Goaltender Austin Brihn has been amazing since the semester break with a .921 SV%.
Eastern Washington will play a home game versus Selkirk College the night before.
“Especially when you’re travelling, you don’t want to put too much strain on the boys and make sure they’re healthy and fighting for spots and that their competition levels are high,” said Coletta.
The Saturday home game is Minor Hockey Officials Night. All BC hockey officials will get free entry to the game, and a select number of referees will be taking part in the pregame ceremonies and intermission contest.
Puck drop is at 7:30 pm for the UVic game and 7 pm for the home game. At the Bill Copeland Sports Centre, tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children under 6 or for SFU students with valid ID. The game will also be streamed live on HockeyTV.