SFU hockey drop home opener to rival Trinity Western Spartans 4–1

Parade to penalty box costs Clan opportunity to tie game late

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The Clan are now 1–2 on the season. (Photo courtesy of SFU Hockey)

By: Dylan Webb

The Simon Fraser University hockey team lost their home opener and the second game of their first three regular season games last night. At the Bill Copeland Sports Centre, they fell 4–1 to the Trinity Western University Spartans.  After defeating the Spartans in a thrilling 4–3 overtime win late in the preseason, with both teams dressing close to opening night line-ups, SFU simply could not repeat the effort and discipline that allowed them to overcome the defending league champs in September. The Clan are now 1–2 on the season.

The first period saw a significant amount of grinding in the neutral zone, with few high-quality chances traded either way, and the Spartans were the only team to strike, taking a 1–0 lead into the second period on a goal from Travis Verveda. The Spartans continued their usual grinding style in the second period, repeating the tone and outcome of the first to double their lead to 2–0 on a goal from Brandon Potomak heading into the third.

SFU briefly injected some enthusiasm into the Bill Copeland crowd and some energy into the legs of the Clan skaters with a powerplay goal from Darnel St. Pierre that momentarily cut the Spartan lead to one. However, the wheels fell off for the Clan halfway through the third period. Despite only allowing one goal on 10 powerplay attempts for the Spartans, the timing and nature of the Clan’s parade to the penalty box destroyed any momentum that may possibly have been brewing for a home team comeback.

One silver lining for the Clan is that, once again, the team outshot their opponents, and appear to have no problem getting the puck towards the net. The team will need to carry positives such as this and build on them with finish and a net-front presence if they want to turn around their BCIHL season.

In goal, Michael Lenko, making his first start at home as a member of the Clan, allowed four goals on 25 shots and took the loss despite earning second star honours. Having made all three starts for the Clan so far this season, Lenko now holds a 1–2 record in his BCIHL career.

Coach Mark Coletta acknowledged positives that the team could take from the game, but discipline and cohesiveness were the major area where the Clan “beat ourselves tonight,” he pointed out.

“We need to improve our discipline and come to the rink with a commitment to make sacrifices for each other if we are going to take advantage of our skill and speed this season,” he added.

With the loss, Simon Fraser now find themselves four points behind Trinity Western for top spot in the BCIHL standings. While it may seem early in the season to have an eye on the standings, the combination of relatively few teams being in the league and a condensed university hockey schedule (24 regular-season games) means that the two points up for grabs against rivals such as the Spartans are very important to the playoff race — which will surely shape up in the spring, regardless of when in the season the games occur.

For this reason, the Clan need to regroup quickly, build off the positives from the first two weeks of games, recalibrate their team discipline, and start playing more cohesively as a unit if they hope to stay in the race for playoff position.

What’s next:

The Clan will take advantage of a week free of league action to work on conditioning and team systems before heading to Vancouver Island to face off against the UVic Vikes on October 26, and then returning home the next day for the third of five games this season against one of their other main rivals, the Selkirk Saints.

Peak player of the game: Michael Lenko

While giving up four goals on 25 shots isn’t pretty to the stat sheet, it doesn’t show the saves that Lenko made. He consistently stopped quality chances, and was a big reason the scoreline wasn’t worse than it was.