Photo Credit: Garrett James
With nearly 1,000 in attendance for the regular season finale on Saturday night, the SFU Men’s Hockey Team secured first place and will face the fourth-placed University of Victoria Vikes in round one of the BCIHL playoffs this weekend.
“If that’s how hard we have to play to win games in the playoffs, we’re going to ramp up our game even more,” said head coach Mark Coletta after a 3-1 victory over Trinity Western Saturday to clinch first.
It will be a best-of-three series, and the first game will be played in Victoria on Friday(7:30 puck drop), while games two and (if necessary) three will be played in Burnaby on Saturday(7:00pm) and Sunday(4:30pm).
This will mark the first season since 2012/13 that SFU won’t meet Trinity Western in the first round.
SFU will enter the playoffs on a roll. Since the semester break, the Clan have just two regulation losses in 11 games played, and have collected 17 out of a possible 22 points since then. That has come from a balanced offensive attack and a sound defensive game, with SFU leading the league in goal differential with +54.
The Clan also lead the league in goals scored, putting up 4.33 goals per game, and allow the second-least amount of goals with only 2.08 per game. SFU has four players in the Top 10 of BCIHL scoring — Adam Callegari, Scott Patterson, Brendan Lamont, and Graham Smerek — while Mathew Berry-Lamontagna sits at 15th, the second-best defenceman.
With 11 and 12 goals respectively, Jaret Babych and Daniell Lange are two of just eight players in the BCIHL with double-digit goal totals.
However, SFU will be facing some high powered scoring threats themselves. UVic’s Patrick Holland and Shaun Mueller are two other members of the BCIHL double digit goal club, with 14 and 12 respectively. They also both sit at the top of the points race, with Mueller in second with 29 points and Holland in fourth with 28. Freshman defenceman Kyle Bird sits in ninth with 21.
They have 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.
The Vikes have struggled as of late, having lost their last four games, with their last win coming on February 3. However, SFU will be playing a well-rested team that hasn’t played since February 25.
“[They have] a good lineup, they’re dangerous out in their rink. That’s a small arena, it’s a different style of game, you got to be a little more gritty,” said Coletta. “They’re going to hurt you if you give them the chance to hurt you. We’ve got to do a good job to make sure we smother.
“It’s going to be fun, [. . .] I mean it’s playoff hockey, it’s the best time of the year.”
SFU will have some choice in net, with both Lyndon Stanwood and Jordan Liem putting up a fantastic year. Stanwood finished the regular season 10-1, and had a 1.73 GAA and .934 SV%, with two shutouts, while Liem has allowed only one goal in three of his last four starts, and in that timeframe, has a .939 SV%.
For the SFU home games, tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for children under 6 or for SFU students with valid ID. The games will also be streamed live on HockeyTV. Puck drop is at 7:30 pm for the Victoria game on Friday, while Saturday’s games will start at 7 pm. If a third game is needed, Sunday’s game will be played at 4:30 pm.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jaret Babych — SFU
(11G, 6A, 21GP) (2015/16: 5G, 1A, 13GP)
Last season, his first with SFU after transferring from the NCAA Division III University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Babych started out the season strong offensively, with two two-goal games in the first three games. However, after missing time with injuries, he had a hard time getting back to the scoresheet. This season, he’s picked up right where he started with 11 goals in 21 games this season. He also brings a gritty, physical game, so even when not scoring, he’s a threat on the ice.
Henry Hart — UVic
(0G, 5A, 22GP) (2015/16: 0G, 8A, 23GP)
Though he isn’t relied upon to put up points, Hart is a steady presence on the Vikes’ blueline. Listed at 6’3”, he brings some size. In his few absences this season — only two — his presence was sorely missed by the team.
Game 1: Friday, March 10, 7:30pm Ian Stewart Complex – Victoria
Game 2: Saturday,March 11 7:00pm Bill Copeland Sports Centre – Burnaby
Game 3*: Sunday March 12th 4:30pm Bill Copeland Sports Centre – Burnaby
*- If necessary