By: Dylan Webb
SFU hockey defeated the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners 4–1 on Family Day at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Capping off a day of family-friendly festivities at the rink with an entertaining win, the Clan secured one of their most important victories of the season to stay alive in the battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The win sets up an epic showdown this Friday night as the Selkirk Saints come to Burnaby for an all-important matchup with the Clan that will preview a likely first round playoff series as well as determine which team enjoys home ice advantage in the first round.
In a tight checking first period in which SFU limited their opponent to just a handful of shots, the Clan still found themselves down 1–0 despite firing 14 shots of their own at VIU netminder Brett Clark in the first twenty minutes of action. Once again, SFU allowed the first goal of the game early in the first, which is a trend the Clan would like to work on ending as the team inches toward playoff action.
The Clan responded in the second period, tying the game at one on a beautiful tip in by Ryker Moreau on a point shot from Mathew Berry-Lamontagna. The Clan would cement their win in the third period with goals from Jaret Babych and Braxton Bilous in what was otherwise a tightly contested game. Bilous’ goal, a product of one of the nicer assists of the season on a beautiful play by forward Brendan Lamont, gave the Clan all the separation they would need to secure the win. While SFU dominated in time of possession and on the shot clock, a stellar performance from the VIU netminder as well as a few unfortunate bounces and near misses kept the game close well into the third.
In goal, Lyndon Stanwood had another solid game for SFU despite facing just 10 shots through the first two periods and 20 shots in the contest overall. Stanwood continues to anchor the team and draw the bulk of playing time as the team continues its battle for playoff positioning.
The win over VIU sets the Clan just three points back of the Selkirk Saints for second place in the league. However, the two teams will square off twice more in the remaining four games and, given this, playoff positioning is far from being decided. While the two teams are likely to play each other in the first round, the unique BC Intercollegiate Hockey League playoff format dictates that, if the two teams are to face each other in the playoffs, the team that secures home ice advantage will host all three games of the series due to travel concerns. Therefore, the remaining four games of the season loom large for the Clan as they look to continue rolling in order to overtake the Saints for second place and avoid having to play an entire playoff series in the unfriendly confines of the Castlegar Recreation Centre.
When asked about the impending matchup with the Saints and the enormous implications for playoff positioning the game holds, coach Mark Coletta agreed that it was as big of a game as they come in the regular season for the Clan and that ultimately, “it should be fun” watching two high-quality teams battle for the right to host a playoff series. “It’s a big one,” he said, adding that “the boys will be ready” as everyone is fully aware of the importance of the remaining two games against Selkirk. You can catch the next game, a showdown with the rival Selkirk Saints, on Friday February 16 at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.