It all seemed to be looking good for the SFU Men’s Hockey team. They had won nine of their last 10 games heading into the tail end of the season, and were looking like they would clinch first place in the BCIHL.
However, they lost three of their last four games in the regular season, with two games in particular standing out as particularly tough losses; they lost 5–0 to Selkirk in a game that could have clinched them first place and the top seed in the playoffs, and suffered a 4–3 overtime loss to UVic in the final game of the season — where they blew a two-goal third period lead. When it was time to head into playoffs, the team lost the first two games of the best of three against Trinity Western, the series-winning goal coming in overtime from Burnaby boy Matthew Vela.
“Sometimes you go on a good winning streak in the middle of the season, and maybe you want to have that going into the playoffs instead of the middle of the season,” said Head Coach Mark Coletta. “I think the mindset might have been too casual within the dressing room and the player group. We prepare and work hard every week, from August right through to the end. So I don’t question their work rate or effort. There might have been a little bit of a mental lapse, let’s just say, that last week and it was tough to recover.”
In the playoffs, SFU played uncharacteristically bad defence, allowing 11 goals over the two games. They also struggled on the powerplay, going one for 19, a .05 conversion percentage.
“Right off the bat, those two things from an analytics side of things equal losing,” remarked Coletta. “From the effort level to the gameplay, I thought we did okay Friday night. I thought we got a couple of bad bounces and I don’t think [Jordan] Liem played his best.
“I thought we outplayed them [in] the Saturday night game, [but with] playoff hockey, you never know what can happen.”
One of the biggest storylines of the season was captain Jono Ceci. He broke the all-time BCIHL scoring record on November 28th, and finishes his illustrious career at SFU with 177 in 108 games through five seasons with the team. However, the team wasn’t able to reward him and the three other graduating seniors with a BCIHL championship.
“I think the mindset might have been too casual within the dressing room [near the end of the season].”
“Any time you have four seniors or one senior graduating, those guys have given a lot to the program and you feel — like I said — disappointment,” remarked Coletta. “But a part of you feels like you’ve let them down as a coaching staff, to bring them a championship. They work hard on the ice, they work hard in the classroom, and those four guys deserve a lot of credit. They [were] part of the building blocks of a program at SFU that’s getting bigger and stronger every year.”
Next year, Coletta expects to score a lot more goals and compete for the BCIHL championship that has eluded the team for the last few years.
“Up front, obviously [we] lose Jono, who’s the all-time leading scorer and led our team in scoring again this year. But guys like Callegari, Basham, Lamont, Tidy — we look to them to carry the torch and have better years. I thought Callegari could have been better, and Basham and guys like that should be full credit for getting 30 points on their own next year each.”
“The future looks bright,” Coletta said on next season. “I would suggest our standards and our goals will be very high next year.”