It wasn’t supposed to be so tough, but playoff hockey is prone to unpredictable outcomes.
The Selkirk College Saints entered the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) semi-final series this past weekend after claiming first place in the regular season. The three-time defending league champion’s first round opponent was the University of Victoria Vikes who came in as the fourth seed after finishing 14 points behind the Saints in the standings.
It was supposed to be a formality, but Vikes goaltender Scott Legault had other ideas. Over the three games,Selkirk College shooters peppered Legault with 115 shots. Ultimately the Saints staved off the upset with a 3-1 series clinching win on Sunday night at the Castlegar and District Recreation Complex, but it was far from easy.
“He [Legault] had a good series for sure and we had to work a little harder to get those goals,” Saints forward Jamie Vlanich said after Sunday’s victory. “That’s what we did and ultimately we were successful.”
In the series opener on Friday night, a large and supportive crowd watched Saints forward Tylor Branzen score the first goal just over five minutes into the game. The Vikes came roaring back late in the period with two goals of their own to take a 2-1 lead. Ryan Edwards tied the game with a beautiful end-to-end rush early in the second period, but Vikes forward Linden Horswill quickly got one back.
Branzen’s second goal of the game late in the middle period sent the teams into the dressing room tied at 3-3, despite the outshooting the Vikes 24-12 in the first 40 minutes. Just over eight minutes into the final period,rookie forward Dane Feeney scored on the power play for the eventual game winner and the Saints opened the series with a 4-3 win.
On Saturday night, Vlanich scored a pair of goals to pace the Saints to a 2-1 lead late into the third period. With time running out on their season, the Vikes pulled their goalie with two minutes left and Jack Palmer picked up a loose puck to beat Selkirk College starter James Prigione with a minute remaining. Less than two minutes into the first overtime, Horswill got the game winner when he redirected a shot from Carsen Willans.
In Sunday’s do-or-die contest, the Saints came out determined and threw 20 shots on Legault in the opening period. Vlanich was the only Saints player to solve the Vikes goaltender when he scored his third goal of the series while Selkirk College was shorthanded.
After a scoreless second period, Saints forward Ryon Sookro scored on a rebound to pad the lead midway through the third period. But an Aaron Ens goal with eight minutes left in the period cranked up the intensity level. Prigione shut the door and Dallas Calvin scored into the empty net to seal the 3-1 victory and send the pesky Vikes packing.
“It was exciting, I wanted to make an impact,” said Sookro, who returned to the line-up and registered the game-winner on Sunday after being sidelined with a hairline fracture in his wrist three weeks ago. “Their goaltender played well and when that happens it’s tough, but you just have to keep getting shots and it will work out in the end.”
The Saints will meet the Trinity Western University Spartans in the best-of-three league championship series starting Friday night in Castlegar. The third-seed Spartans upset the Simon Fraser University Clan in the other semi-final to earn a shot at the coveted provincial title.
If the Saints are to claim their fourth straight BCIHL crown, they will need their best weekend of the season against a tough Spartans team.
“You want to win and in order to win you have sacrifice yourself,” said Edwards, who had a team-leading five points against the Vikes. “You have to play faster and harder … that’s what we did this weekend and that’s what we will do against Trinity Western.”
All three games will be played at the Castlegar and District Recreation Complex. Both Friday and Saturday night’s games start at 7 p.m. If necessary, Sunday’s game will begin at 6 p.m.