By: Dylan Webb
On Saturday night at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre, the SFU hockey team closed out its regular season schedule on a high note with yet another defeat of one of their main rivals, the University of Victoria (UVIC) Vikes. Beating the Vikes for the fourth time this season in dominant fashion with a 5–2 win after the Vikes eliminated them from the playoffs last year was a satisfying finale of what had been a dominant second half for SFU. Despite being currently embroiled in a heated dispute regarding an ineligible player ruling that appears to have cost the Clan a shot at playoff glory, the Clan ended the regular season in peak form irrespective of their playoff fate that is to be determined and finalized in the next few days.
Before puck drop, the Clan celebrated the achievements of their graduating seniors and honoured their contributions to the success of the program in a thoughtful ceremony that allowed the players’ parents to join them on the ice preceding what would be their final game in an SFU uniform. The graduating seniors’ class included captain Brandon Tidy, Lyndon Stanwood, who was last years BC Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) MVP, as well as veteran forwards Pavlo Zerebecky, Robert Izsak, Tyler Basham, and Mak Barden. A strong effort would send the seniors off with a victory before one of the bigger crowds the team has drawn to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre this season.
Following the ceremonies, the puck dropped on the final regular season game of the year and the Clan’s dominance began in the first despite a brief hiccup to start the game. After a giveaway that resulted in an early UVIC goal, possibly related to the fact that all five graduating seniors were on the ice to start the game and they are all forwards, the Clan responded quickly with newcomer Nicholas Holowko scoring the first of his two goals on the night.
In the second, the Clan would open up a two-goal lead on Holowko’s second of the night and Zerebecky’s shorthanded marker that, assisted by Barden, was the only all-senior goal of the night. SFU would carry a 3–1 lead into the third with Zerebecky’s tallying proving to be the eventual game-winning goal.
The third period saw the team increase their two-goal lead to three and secure the victory with Ryker Moreau and Austin Adam chipping in on the score sheet. Adam finished the year with a measurable offensive uptake scoring in at least four of his last five games played. With a 5–2 final, the Clan succeeded in demonstrating that they were more deserving of playoff action than UVIC, having outshot them 39–15. Clearly, the frustration of the ongoing eligibility committee review of SFU’s roster spilled over into the game as line brawls marred the second and third period action.
In goal, Stanwood secured his league leading 16th win of the season to cap an impressive BCIHL career that saw him earn league MVP honours last season. Stanwood gave way to backup Ryan Sandrin to start the third period. Sandrin was making just his third appearance this season, as Stanwood was an absolute workhorse this season starting more games than any other netminder in the league.
Asked about the controversy surrounding the ineligible player review and its implications for playoff hockey, coach Mark Coletta emphasized his frustration on behalf of the players and fans while vowing to fight to the end to maintain SFU’s playoff hopes. “While the ruling certainly deals with an eligibility violation that was made, our frustration is with the particular application of the ruling and interpretation of the ruling with respect to points allocation in a situation like this,” he said. Netminder Sandrin echoed these sentiments, also emphasizing his sympathy for the graduating seniors that will likely see their expected shot at playoff glory evaporate with the loss of points that the eligibility committee has recommended with respect to the ineligible player fielded by SFU in eleven games this season. “It’s definitely frustrating,” he said, adding, “It is something we will have to learn from going forward into next season and beyond.”
With the regular season appearing to have concluded on a shockingly bitter note for the Clan pending a final appeal of the decision, the team now looks forward to next season and a summer of recruitment with an eye toward filling the gaping holes left by graduating seniors such as Stanwood, Tidy, Basham, Barden, and Zerebecky. The frustration of ending what had been a strong season and unbelievably dominant second half without playoff action was expressed by many of the players, especially the seniors that will not get a chance for redemption next season.
Look for another article in the sports section of The Peak in the next couple days that will further detail the ineligible player review and its implications for SFU’s playoff hopes in the next few days as details emerge and the decision is finalized.