CASTLEGAR – The Selkirk College Saints enter the 2017-2018 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) regular season with plenty of fresh faces in the line-up, but the tenacity to return a championship to the West Kootenay remains a constant.
Coming off a string of four straight league titles, the Saints were bumped from the post-season in the first round last spring by the Trinity Western University Spartans. With more than half the team graduating from the program, Saints’ head coach Brent Heaven went to work on recruiting players that will help return a provincial championship to the Selkirk College.
“The intensity that we play with is something that I am extremely excited about,” says Heaven, who is entering his third season as head coach. “We have to work on some parts of the game that keeps that intensity in check, but overall the players we have brought into the program are character guys who compete extremely hard on every single shift.”
Top of mind for Heaven in recruiting is the strength of the junior programs where prospects honed their skills. An example is found just down the highway, where the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Beaver Valley Nitehawks are perennial powerhouses. Three of the new Saints—McCoy Hauck, Tyler Hartman and Devin Nemes—pulled on a Nitehawks jersey last season.
“All of the new players have come from great programs and many were on championship teams where they have good systems, so it doesn’t take much to teach the systems,” says Heaven. “It’s more about getting everyone on the same page.”
Optimism for the return to championship form is also fuelled by the veterans who are back for a second or third year, including offensive threats Dallas Calvin and Dane Feeney who both struggled with significant injuries last season. Calvin led the league in scoring in his 2015-2016 rookie campaign, but missed the entire second half of the season and the playoffs after undergoing shoulder surgery
“I feel like I haven’t missed a step and I’m right where I was last year before the injury,” says Calvin, who grew up in Trail. “I’m really excited to be out playing and I can’t wait to see what happens in the months ahead.”
Like his coach, Calvin is optimistic about his new teammates.
“If you are not willing to put in the work, you are not going to be playing,” says Calvin. “Because the roster has 24 players on it, the overall compete level amongst the guys within the team for spots on the ice makes everyone work that much harder when game time comes. We have a lot of leaders on this team who come to this program from different teams and you are not really a leader if you’re not a hard worker.”
The Saints quest to return the BCIHL championship to Selkirk College begins on Friday night with the home opener at the Castlegar and District Recreation Centre against the Simon Fraser University Clan. Heaven says hockey fans will be in for a treat all season long.
“We have strengths throughout our entire line-up, I don’t see one spot where we have a real weakness,” says Heaven. “From 24 all the way down to one, we are very confident in the group we have this season. Our regular style is an intense, hard hitting, fast skating type of game that the players love to play. And I know the fans love to come out and watch a team with that type of intensity and fire.”
The puck drops Friday night at 7 p.m.