CASTLEGAR — On the eve of taking an almost one-month break from the comfort of their home arena, the Selkirk College Saints scored an exciting 5-4 overtime victory over the Simon Fraser University Clan on Saturday night.
With the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) regular season fully immersed in the stretch drive to the playoffs, the stakes have been raised for all teams. Fighting for the coveted home-ice advantage, the second-place Saints took on the third-place Clan at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre.
In a back-and-forth contest, the home side came out on top when Brandon Sookro converted a perfect Logan Styler pass with a minute left in overtime to inch closer to the first place Trinity Western University Spartans.
“These were an important two points,” says Saints head coach Brent Heaven. “There was a playoff-like atmosphere and the guys know that all the games going forward are going to be close. We need to be resilient which means not getting down when things aren’t going right and not getting too high when things are going good.”
The Saints jumped out to an early lead on Saturday night against SFU when defenceman Seth Schmidt notched a pair of goals in the first six minutes to build a 2-0 advantage. With just under nine minutes left in the opening period, Mark Barden got the Clan on the board when he beat Saints starter, Brett Huber.
The teams traded power-play goals in the middle frame that had Huber busy in the Saints’ net as the Clan outshot the hosts 15-6. Jack Mills scored for the Saints and Brandon Tidy for the Clan.
Midway through the third period, the Clan tied the score on a controversial goal that resulted after an apparent offside was not called. Thirty seconds later, SFU banged away at a rebound to take a 4-3 lead over the Saints who were rattled by the turn of events.
With just over a minute remaining in the game, Sookro scored to tie the score at 4-4 and set up his overtime heroics. Though the Saints were outshot in the first three periods, the home team dominated the extra frame.
Now only trailing Trinity Western University by two points, the Saints head west for two separate road trips in February. After a weekend off, they will make the bus ride to the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo). On the Feb. 16-17 weekend, the Saints will once again exit the West Kootenay for a vital pair against Simon Fraser University and Trinity Western University.
“We will take some time to do some fun activities over the next couple weeks,” Heaven says of the strategy. “It can become a bit of a grind with school, practising and playing. These guys are students first and it’s healthy to have a little distraction to help bring the team closer together. By the time we get back onto that bus in a couple of weeks, it’s important to have that focus for the next four road games.”
The Saints return home to the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre on Feb. 24 when they will again host Simon Fraser University for a special late-afternoon game that starts at 4 p.m. The team will wrap up the regular season at home against Vancouver Island University on March 3.