Stellar goaltending and timely goals combined to help lift the Selkirk College Saints to a pair of weekend victories over the Vancouver Island University Mariners on Friday and Saturday.
In a playoff-like atmosphere at the Castlegar Recreation Centre, the Saints skated away with a 6-5 victory on Friday night and 4-2 win on Saturday night to move into the coveted second spot in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey Leauge regular season standings. With four points over the weekend, the Saints now hold a two-point edge over the Mariners.
“In both games, we played with pride, and showed the ability to fight back to retake a lead,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “That level of patience in our game and the ability to battle back will be a huge asset when the playoffs start next month. This was the biggest weekend of the season so far, I’m very pleased with the effort and the way the guys have come together.”
Friday night’s game was a back-and-forth contest that had the two teams tied 3-3 midway through the second period made possible on goals by Tayden Woods, and former Beaver Valley Nitehawks Nolan Percival and Tyler Hartman. Three unanswered goals in the last 10 minutes of the middle stanza by Brady Ward, Kadrian Klimchuk and Edward Lindsey gave the home side a 6-3 cushion after 40 minutes.
In the third period, the Mariners pushed hard with 20 shots on Selkirk College starting goaltender Patrick Zubick. Though they managed to narrow the gap, Castlegar-raised Zubick was up to the task and helped his team preserve the victory.
“To compete for the league championship, goaltending will play a major role,” Heaven says. “Patrick showed us once again that he has the ability to provide the big saves and sense of calm that helps give his teammates a boost when it’s needed.”
In Saturday night’s contest, Saints forward and former Nitehawk Dylan Heppler scored 45 seconds into the game to get his team on the board. The Mariners stormed back with two more goals and held a 2-1 lead at the second intermission.
Early in the third period, defenceman Parker Wakaruk scored on the powerplay and 25 seconds later Heppler notched his second of the game to give his team the lead. Just like Friday night, the Mariners fought back hard and Zubick responded in kind. Klimchuk added an empty-net goal with a minute left to salt away the 4-2 win.
Both the Saints and the Mariners have two games remaining in the BCIHL regular season. If the Saints can hold onto second place, they will host the Mariners in the best- of-three league semi-final that will take place on March 8-10.
“We have battled hard to get ourselves into this position,” says Heaven. “We will now prepare for the final regular season weekend against Simon Fraser (on March 1/2) and if we can continue to play like we did this weekend, it will help us get that all-important home playoff weekend in front of our great fans.”
Due to a light February schedule, the Saints have arranged a couple of exhibition games against the Rossland Sr. AA Warriors that will take place on Feb. 16 in Rossland and Feb. 23 in Castlegar at 7 p.m.