The vibe in the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre this past weekend felt more like early-March than mid-October with the Selkirk College Saints and University of Victoria Vikes battling in a two-game series that had the intensity of the post-season.
The Saints home opening weekend featured a pair of terrific British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) games that resulted in a tight 3-2 win for Selkirk College on Friday night and a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday.
“It was our home opener and it felt like playoffs,” says Saints head coach Dave Hnatiuk. “Hopefully that is what we can expect every weekend because this is a small league and there is parody amongst all the teams. That’s what it will take to be successful this season.”
After dropping the first two road games of the regular season on the road earlier this month, the Saints were hungry for a win and came out strong in Friday night’s contest. Rookie forward Johnny Foley got the home side on the board with five minutes left in the opening period when he took the puck all the way up the right wing boards and cut to the net for his first of the year. Former Saints forward Sawyer Hunt responded five seconds later with a goal for UVic that tied the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes.
In the middle frame, the Saints scored a pair of powerplay goals courtesy of Blake Sidoni and Jaiden LaPorte to go up 3-1 seven minutes into the period. The Vikes then got a powerplay goal of their own before the period ended to make it 3-2. The third period was the most exciting 20 minutes of the game with chances for both teams. Saints starting goaltender Tallon Kramer was solid all game long and stellar in the last minute where he made a pair of clutch game-saving stops to preserve the win.
“These guys want to win and that is the attitude in the room,” says Hnatiuk. “As a coach, that is the culture you want to build and it is coming together in that capacity.”
Saturday night’s rematch was a rollercoaster affair that started 13 minutes into the game when second-year forward Sebastian Powsey scored for Selkirk College. The second period saw the University of Victoria score three unanswered goals when Keenan Eddy, David Stickney and Hunt scored in the stanza. Hunt’s second of the weekend came with only 12 seconds left in the period.
Unwilling to fold, the Saints stormed back in the third with former Castlegar Rebels standout Dallas Goodwin narrowing the margin to 3-2 just over seven minutes in. Kramer again helped keep his team stay alive when the Vikes put pressure on which set the stage for Joe Gage’s goal with only eight seconds remaining on the clock that sent the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, Foley scored his second goal of the weekend to empty the Saints bench and bring the supportive crowd to their feet.
“It was great to get back on track with a couple of wins, now we need to keep building because the whole season is made up of numerous steps before we get to the final goal,” says Hnatiuk. “We have built the foundation and each week we need to take a step forward... this weekend was an example of that and we can keep building.”
The Saints have a week off before heading back to Vancouver Island for a pair of games against the Vikes and Vancouver Island University. They will return home on November 8 and 9 to take on defending BCIHL champion Trinity Western University.