SFU hockey look to compete for BCIHL championship in 2018–19

Abrupt and disappointing end to 2017–2018 season serves as extra motivation for SFU hockey team

A strong group of veterans is accompanied by new speed and skill. (Photo courtesy of SFU Hockey)

By: Dylan Webb

The 2017–18 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) season ended as abruptly and early in the year as it ever has for the SFU men’s ice hockey team.

The team had dealt with a controversial season-ending ineligible player ruling that effectively removed SFU from its second-place position in the league standings and, by extension, suspended the team’s eligibility for the BCIHL playoffs. It was an unusual reason for the team to miss out on an opportunity at a BCIHL title. Understandably, a sense of frustration brewed palpably in the depths of the Bill Copeland sports centre.

However, as the calendar turned, lockers cleaned out, and some key veteran players graduated from the program, this frustration slowly began to transition into motivation for the 2018–19 season. As the Clan’s preseason wrapped up with a trip to Alaska last weekend, the transition was complete, and, with an injection of fresh and familiar faces fighting for roster spots and ice time, the team appears hungrier than ever before for a BCIHL title.

SFU completed preseason play with a 1–3 record, which is partially misleading, given that the team played three of their first four games against NCAA division 1 and CIS teams outside of their usual league. The Clan has already showcased a host of new roster additions, and will continue to do so as the season kicks off in Castlegar against the Selkirk College Saints on October 5. Having started the season with a 4–3 overtime win over the defending league champions, the Trinity Western University Spartans and following it up with a strong effort against a powerful UBC squad before heading to Alaska for even stiffer competition, the Clan has sharpened up in advance of its tilt with the Saints this Friday.

A key takeaway from the preseason thus far has been the improved depth and speed throughout the roster, as well as the intense competition underway for roster spots and regular playing time at all key positions.

Head coach Mark Coletta is confident this depth will pay off, saying that this year’s SFU hockey team should be “one of the fastest teams the BCIHL has ever seen.” Second-year forward Ian Mackey supports this assessment, stating that “we are a deeper team this year without a doubt, and with new guys stepping in, our speed and skill have gotten even better throughout the line-up.”

Speaking of a new line-up, the roster looks to shape up as follows:

Up front, returning forwards Jaret Babych, Eric Callegari, Mac Colasimone, Nicholas Holowko, Brendan Lamont, Mackey, Ryker Moreau, Spencer Unger and Nathan Washington are supplemented by new recruits Arjun Badh, Jordan Funk, Mathieu Jallabert, Mitch Ledyard, Cole Plotnikoff and Mitch Newsome while Graham Smerek, a point per game player in 2016–2017 before taking a year off, rejoining the squad.

On the back end, a solid core of returning veterans that includes Matthew Berry-Lamontagna, Darnel St. Pierre and Austin Adam is complemented by new recruits Arjan Cheema, Domenic Masellis, Matthew Holowko and Jamieson Ree.

In net, looking to replicate at least some of the strong statistics fourth-year veteran Lyndon Stanwood posted last season before moving on to professional hockey in Sweden are returning goaltenders Ryan Sandrin and Dylan Webb, joined by new recruits Michael Lenko from the SIJHL’s Red Lake Miners and Domenic Fritz.

With respect to staff, head coach Mark Coletta returns alongside assistant coach Jimmy Cammazola and new addition, Matt Grassi. New assistant coach Matt Grassi is a junior and university hockey veteran who was a BCHL All-Star with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Grassi won a silver medal with Canada in the World Junior A Championships, and went on to play four years in the NCAA with Michigan State prior to one season of professional hockey in the AHL and ECHL before retiring in 2014.

With a strong coaching staff complemented by director of hockey operations and BCIHL league president Chris Munshaw, the team benefits from a lot of continuity and experience in terms of both coaching and managerial personnel.

Expectations are high for an SFU squad that looks strong on paper, sharp, and ready to go at the conclusion of its training camp and exhibition schedule. Despite the BCIHL now playing in a five-team league as opposed to six, having lost Eastern Washington University as a member team that was one of the weaker links historically, the competitiveness of the league may, counterintuitively, have increased.

“There is always motivation every season to win a championship,” said Mackey, when The Peak asked how it felt competing after last season’s abrupt end. “The way things ended last year definitely adds a bit of extra fuel to the fire.”

Competitive and exciting hockey returns to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre with the Clan’s home opener on October 13, the week following the aforementioned regular season kick off in Castlegar on October 5 and 6. With two games against Selkirk and one against the defending league champion TWU Spartans, there is no time for easing into the season, as BCIHL heavyweights will square off for season opening points that will undoubtedly make a difference in playoff races in February and March.  Come check out some inter-university hockey as the Clan begin their pursuit of the 2018–2019 BCIHL championship.


Editor’s note: Dylan Webb is a member of the SFU Hockey Club.