Photo Credit: Garrett James
With over a month off in between games, and a first place spot to defend, the SFU Men’s Hockey Team are raring to go to for the Spring semester. Having finished the first semester with a 10-2-1 record and collecting 21 out of a possible 26 points, the team looks to continue that level of play.
“I thought we played really well,” said head coach Mark Coletta, reflecting on the first half of play. “We had a game plan going in that we were going to bring in some fresh faces at the beginning of the year, and that’s a mix of some speed and some grit, and I think we showed that in the first semester.
“We’re getting contributions from all the players.”
The 2016 portion of the season saw a Clan team that was capable of strong offensive performances, with a BCIHL-leading 67 goals — outpacing the nearest competitor by 17 — but were also a defensively responsible team, allowing only 30 goals, second only to Trinity Western’s 25.
Newcomers Daniell Lange and Scott Patterson showed an aptitude for scoring goals and creating offensive opportunities, while returners like Adam Callegari and Brendan Lamont have become key parts of SFU’s offensive attack. Sophomore Mitch Crisanti has exploded in his second year, translating his goal scoring ability from junior to a nearly goal-per-game pace in the BCIHL with nine goals in 12 games played this season.
The back end has been solid with a healthy mix of new recruits and returning veterans. Brandon Tidy, who played last season as a forward, has continued his strong play on the blue line.
However, the team is far from complacent with their play. Though SFU sits in first, they are only one point ahead of Trinity Western, and the four point gap between them and Selkirk College is on the line in back-to-back games in Castlegar this weekend. While the first semester success is nice, they know they will have to work harder for the ultimate goal — the BCIHL Championship.
“Definitely our d-zone coverage has got to be better, we’ve got to play a little more aggressive — that’s the system we want to play, we don’t want to be passive,” explained Coletta. “We want to be aggressive, in your face.”
And there will be no easing into games. Having returned to practice on December 29th, the team will have to be in peak physical condition as they play four games in a two week span against the two teams right behind them in the standings.
First, SFU heads to Castlegar this weekend to take on the Selkirk College Saints in a back-to-back Friday and Saturday. SFU had its first regulation win in Castlegar since January 15, 2012 earlier this season, and are currently 2-1 against the four-time defending BCIHL champions.
Then SFU will play a home and home against Trinity Western the following week, with games on the Thursday and Saturday. The Saturday game will mark SFU’s first home game since December 5th.
“I think the first four games are going to dictate what happens in the standings. If we do well in those first four games, two against Selkirk, two against Trinity, I think we secure our spot at the top,” said Coletta. “We’re looking at these first four games as being very important. And that’ll dictate where we’ll sit once the season comes to an end.”
SFU will continue splitting games between goaltenders Jordan Liem and Lyndon Stanwood, who have both been solid in net to start the season.
The Clan will also be seeing a number of players returning from injury. Defenceman Robson Cramer, who suffered an eye injury in the preseason, is healthy and is expected to make his regular season debut in the coming games. Mike Sandor, who has not played since October 15th, is expected to return.
Patterson, Dustin Cave, and Jaret Babych, who were injured at the end of the year are expected to return to the lineup.
Puck drop is at 7 pm for all games mentioned here, and all games will be broadcast on HockeyTV (formerly FASTHockey).