The Selkirk College Saints return to the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre this weekend facing a pivotal two-game set against the University of Victoria in what is clearly a fork in the road for the young British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season.
The Saints spent most of October on the road where the results were less than stellar, losing all four away games in a sampling of four opposition teams. After the opening six games of the regular season, the Saints find themselves in the unusual position of holding a 1-3-0-2 record and looking up in the league standings.
“It’s not the start that we wanted and it’s frustrating,” says Saints’ head coach Brent Heaven. “At the same time we are making progress, but it’s just not coming through at the end of the games.”
This past weekend in the Lower Mainland, the Saints headed into Langley for a Friday night contest against defending champion Trinity Western University. Though the Saints jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a Josh Shatford goal, the home side skated away with a 4-1 victory where they registered 42 shots on Selkirk College starter Tallon Kramer.
On Saturday night, the Saints opened the first period against Simon Fraser University with a 2-0 lead on goals by Parker Wakaruk and Dylan Heppler. In the end, the Saints lost 5-4 in overtime in a game that featured 44 shots on starter Patrick Zubick.
A trademark for the Saints over the last few seasons has been determined work ethic and an offense that peppers opposition goaltenders with shots. So far this season, the Saints have been on the opposite side of that equation with Kramer and Zubick having to face the majority of the rubber in games.
“It’s a culmination of factors at this point,” Heaven says of his team’s struggles. “We are not competing on every puck battle, it seems like we are happy to simply compete but we are not really willing.”
In the first ten games of the 2017-2018 regular season, the Saints blazed out to a perfect 10-0 start on the way to a berth in the championship final this past March. Though Heaven is concerned about this season’s start, the veteran coach is not hitting the panic button.
“I full heartedly believe we can get to the point where we are winning these games,” says the man who guided the Saints to a 2016 league championship. “Ultimately that has to come from the desire within the players. They need to understand what the difference is between a winning team and a losing team, it’s about doing the little things. As a coaching staff, we will continue to work with them and allow them the opportunities to do the job.”
The return to the familiar surroundings of the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre where support from student peers and the community is tops in the league will provide an important boost the team requires.
“We need to get that confidence back and a good place to do that is home,” says Heaven. “We need to take the doubt of our minds and start believing in each other so that we can have success.”
The puck drops both Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m.