Split on Vancouver Island road trip keeps Clan within one point of first place

SFU falls to the VIU Mariners Saturday after defeating the UVIC Vikes Friday

Lenko's 33 saves were not enough for the Clan on Saturday night. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

By: Dylan Webb

SFU Hockey travelled to Vancouver Island this weekend for a two-game road trip, with four key points on the line, as they looked to maintain their tenuous grip on first place in the BCIHL standings. Unfortunately, they were cost that opportunity by the VIU Mariners on Saturday night at the Nanaimo Ice Centre after a tight one-goal loss.

On the upside, their defeat of the UVIC Vikes the night before, combined with a Trinity Western loss to the Selkirk Saints over the weekend, keeps the Clan within a point of first place in the league standings as the team nears its winter break.

On Friday night in Victoria, the Clan absolutely peppered UVIC goaltender Zack Wear. Sending a total of 60 shots at the net, SFU built up a three-goal lead through the first 40 minutes and held off a late push by the Vikes to secure a 4–3 win. The victory was the team’s second win of the season in as many games at the Ian Stewart complex in Victoria.

After the teams traded goals in the first period, SFU forward Mitch Ledyard tallied two goals in the second, one on the power play and one short-handed, to pace the offensive attack. The two-goal lead quickly turned into a three-goal cushion on a snipe from forward Jaret Babych. This insurance marker would prove to be needed as the Clan weathered a third-period storm that saw UVIC score two, and SFU ultimately held on for a one-goal win.

In goal on Friday night, Ryan Sandrin stopped 18 of 21 shots for the Clan to secure his third win in as many starts this season. Maintaining his perfect win-loss record as well as his stingy goals-against average, Sandrin once again performed well enough to ensure his team secured the win.

On Saturday night, a low-scoring affair between two of the main contenders for first place ended in favour of the Mariners: SFU may have carried a 1–0 lead for most of the game, but two late third-period goals from VIU erased it. Forward Graham Smerek had the lone goal for the Clan as they struggled to penetrate scoring areas and were kept to the perimeter for much of the game. Third-period goals from VIU forwards Kobe Oishi and Dallas Calvin, former Selkirk Saints captain, cost the Clan a victory that would have allowed them to leapfrog VIU in the league standings.

Multiple physical encounters overshadowed the strong defensive efforts from both teams in the game. Multiple penalties were handed out on more than one occasion – in one case, a total of 18 minutes in minor penalties were handed out to nine separate players on a single play halfway through the third period.

Between the pipes on Saturday, Michael Lenko started his seventh game of the season and took the loss to fall to 3–4 on the year despite earning second star honours for his 33 save performance. Holding the VIU offense at bay for the first two periods of play, Lenko suffered from a general lack of offensive support from his teammates and certainly gave the Clan a fighting chance in this game.

Following the Saturday night game in Nanaimo, coach Mark Coletta admitted that “we left points on the table on this road trip.” The disappointing loss on Saturday night, and a less-than-ideal finish to the Friday night game that allowed UVIC to make the game much closer than it should have been, is troubling. However, Coletta remains confident that the team has the key pieces and developing chemistry necessary to make a push for a first-place regular season finish and a BCIHL championship come playoff time.

The Clan will now have to wait 19 days until their next league action. Due to the loss of the Eastern Washington University Eagles from the BCIHL at the end of last season, what is now a five-team league is certainly suffering from some scheduling oddities through the first half of this season.

While the Clan now sit in third place, just one point back of the first place VIU Mariners, they are likely to see their spot in the standings shift significantly before their next game action. Trinity Western will play three games before the teams meet at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on December 7 for the final game of the first half of the BCIHL regular season. Given this, the Clan will have to remain focused through multiple weeks of practice without the motivation of game action.