Four players from the Selkirk College Saints suited up for the BC Inter-collegiate Hockey League’s Young Stars team that faced Team Kazakhstan at the College Hockey Showcase at the Langley Events Centre on Tuesday.
The Saints contingent was led by former Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward Dylan Heppler, Castlegar Rebels products Vince Bitonti and Edward Lindsey, and Tayden Woods.
In preparation for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships, the Kazaks played three games in the Showcase culminating with a final match against the BCIHL all-rookie team. Unfortunately, for the BCIHL Young Stars, the Kazakhs earned their third straight win in the College Hockey Showcase, with goalie Vladislav Nurek making 30 saves in a 2-0 shutout victory.
“That first 15 minutes was a pretty out of sorts, but you get into the game and you get a few hits and with both (Michael) Lenko and (Lucas) Mills playing well, we had a fighting chance,” says TWU head coach Barret Kropf.
“I think for the most part, it was a great opportunity for those guys to have an international experience. I think this type of game where we come together as a league helps the BCIHL in terms of levels of respect and competitiveness. It also gives us a bit of a profile in that we were able to be part of helping Kazakhstan prepare for the World Juniors.”
Batyrlan Muratov and Dmitriy Mitenkov scored for Kazakhstan, who are preparing to make a return to the top level of the World Junior Championship for the first time since 2009.
Kazakhstan also beat University of Victoria 6-2 on Dec. 11 and Trinity Western University 4-3 in overtime Dec. 13 as part of the tournament.
Kazakhstan travelled to Port Alberni to play the BCHL Port Alberni Bulldogs on Wednesday and will face Team Switzerland on Friday.
Kazakhstan outshot the Young Stars 43-30, with Simon Fraser University goalie Michael Lenko making 25 saves on 26 shots before giving way to TWU’s Lucas Mills, who stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced through the second half of the contest. Mills finished the tournament stopping 34 of the 37 Kazakh shots he faced over 68 minutes.
The Kazakhs will open the World Junior Championship Dec. 27 against Finland. Team Canada plays its first game of the Tournament against Denmark in Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Dec. 26.
Selkirk College Saints return to action on Jan. 4-5 travelling to the Lower Mainland for games against Trinity Western and Simon Fraser University.