by Austin Cozicar
BURNABY, BC — SFU managed 80 shots on net over two games, but Vancouver Island University goaltender Jeremy Balyk stood tall in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, allowing only three goals and handing SFU 4-2 and 2-1 losses for their final home games of 2019.
Friday night saw SFU get off to a quick start, dominating possession in the first period. On the power play 8:26 into the first, Cole Plotnikoff buried the rebound of Jake Keremidschieff’s point shot to take the early lead.
However, penalty problems by SFU shifted the momentum to VIU’s side, and they scored three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead.
Daniel Rubin scored his first career BCIHL goal to cut the deficit down to one with 7:10 to go, but a VIU empty netter sealed the result.
Patrick Zubick had 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 SV%).
On Saturday, SFU played a tighter game — VIU had only one power play opportunity — but just couldn’t get the puck past Balyk, who made 35 saves on 36 shots (.972 SV%).
The Mariners opened the scoring with 54 seconds left in the first period.
Eric Callegari got SFU on the board with a power play tally 1:25 into the second frame, but VIU’s Brett Witala — who also scored Friday’s game winner — scored the final goal just 2:33 later.
Michael Lenko played strong in net, making 31 saves on 33 shots (.939 SV%).
SFU went into the weekend just one point behind the second-place Mariners, but now sit five back. VIU has played two more games.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to play consistently for 60 minutes,” said head coach Mark Coletta. “We still have three games left, it’s still conceivable to get in that second spot before the break.”
SFU plays Trinity Western University at the Aldergrove Community Arena Thursday, before heading to Castlegar to face Selkirk College on December 6 and 7, wrapping up the 2019 calendar year. They will return home to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on Friday, January 10.