With a home playoff series not in the cards and post-season fate still undetermined, the Selkirk College Saints will be looking for an extra jolt of energy from fans in the team’s final weekend at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre.
Needing a pair of wins to feel a level of comfort in making the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) final run for the title, the fourth-place Saints take on the Simon Fraser University Clan in a pair of home games Friday and Saturday night.
“These are important games and we need to be successful,” says Saints head coach Dave Hnatiuk. “I have yet to see a better fanbase and crowd in the league… we have the best fans by far. The more fan support we have, that atmosphere helps a great deal when it comes to what is happening on the ice.”
That Saints’ 6-11-0-3 record has the team currently sitting four points up on the University of Victoria Vikes for the final BCIHL playoff position. The Saints hold the advantage with four regular season games remaining for each team, but the bigger picture is still not something lost on the student-athletes and the coaching staff.
“We were hoping to be top-two in the league, but all those one-goal losses eliminated that possibility,” says Hnatiuk, alluding to the ten games lost this season in extremely tight contests. “You hope that all this adversity, the struggles and facing challenges will make us stronger in the end. You need to build up the positives at this point of the season.”
The turning point of the season may have come on Saturday night in Burnaby where the Saints put together one of their best efforts of the campaign. Coming off a tough 5-2 loss to Trinity Western University on Friday night, the Saints toppled Simon Fraser University 5-1 to end the Clan’s recent winning streak.
The game featured a wild first period that saw the Saints’ bench shortened after veteran forward Sebastian Powsey was ejected for fighting and defenceman Derian Bamber booted for a cross-checking major. Though Simon Fraser notched the first goal of the game, the visiting Saints scored five unanswered to record the much-needed victory. Edward Lindsey and Garrett Hilton scored two goals each, Kadrian Klimchuk notched his first marker of the season and goaltender Tallon Kramer was stellar between the pipes stopping 34 Clan shots.
“It was a great team win and a good team effort all around, every player had a solid game and contributed in their own way,” says Hnatiuk. “If we are going to be successful for the rest of the season, that is what we will need.”
A climb to the championship from a fourth-place position this late in the season looks daunting, but Hnatiuk says there is still plenty of fight left in his squad. Securing that final playoff position is the immediate goal, but then the possibilities are wide open.
“It’s more about confidence that winning will instill in the group and entering the playoffs knowing that you made a big push helps the mindset,” Hnatiuk says of finishing the regular season strong. “Ultimately it doesn’t matter who you play in the playoffs and when, you are going to have to beat all of the teams ahead of you to win a championship.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, graduating Saints players will be recognized for their commitment to the program and will play their final game on home ice. The puck drops at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night.