By: Dylan Webb
After a rollercoaster first three quarters of their BCIHL season, the SFU hockey team was finally able to clinch a playoff spot on Friday night in Victoria. Defeating the UVIC Vikes for the third time in four games, the Clan officially closed the book on any faint playoff hopes the Vikes were holding onto. As their three-win season winds down, the Vikes will visit SFU for their final two meetings of the season on February 22 and 23.
Firing just seven shots on the Clan net through two periods, the Vikes were unable to generate substantial offense throughout the game. On the other hand, SFU benefitted from an offensive outburst that included three power-play tallies — two from leading goal-scorer Mitch Newsome and one from forward Mac Colasimone. Complemented by even-strength goals courtesy of forwards Jakob Krannabetter and Brendan Lamont, SFU would outshoot the Vikes by a final margin of 44–17 in a dominating 5–1 win, punching their ticket to the first round of the BCIHL playoffs.
On Saturday night, as the Clan’s focus shifted to securing favourable playoff seeding for their first round series, they rolled into Nanaimo to face a much stiffer challenge in the second-place Vancouver Island University Mariners. This much was evident after the first period as the Mariners threw as many shots toward the Clan net in the first period as the Vikes did in the entire game the previous night. Fighting back from a two-goal, first-period deficit with goals from forwards Mitch Newsome and Nic Holowko, the Clan were able to maintain a tied game until late in the third period.
With just eight minutes remaining in the final frame, VIU forward Brett Witala continued his strong offensive season with a power-play tally that put the Mariners up for good. Adding two empty netters in the dying minutes allowed the Mariners a bit of breathing room toward the end of the game, and the final push from the Clan wasn’t enough to tie the game.
With this loss, the Clan now find themselves in an uphill battle for playoff positioning. While they now sit a full six points behind the Selkirk College Saints for third place in the league standings, the Clan do have two games in hand which makes catching the Saints for third, or even the Mariners for second, a challenging yet feasible task.
Having started both games for the Clan over the weekend, goaltender Ryan Sandrin had one of the best weekends of play in his BCIHL career. Stopping 52 of 56 shots he faced over the span of both games, Sandrin stayed sharp on a slow night in Victoria and followed up the winning effort by giving his team a chance to win on Saturday in Nanaimo. Facing a barrage of 17 shots in the first period in Nanaimo alone, Sandrin kept the Clan within striking distance throughout and appears to be solidifying the starting role as playoffs rapidly approach.
Discussing the biggest differences between the Clan’s playoff spot clinching win over the Vikes on Friday and their loss to the same team just a week before, Sandrin emphasized that the team simply had “much better puck possession and execution.” Pointing to the fact that the team collectively “clogged the middle in the defensive zone and pushed everything to the outside,” Sandrin was appreciative of the strong effort by his teammates that allowed him to face only 17 shots in the contest.
SFU now faces another extended break from regular-season action, this time a full twelve days, before returning to the ice on Vancouver Island with another key matchup against the VIU Mariners.
At the risk of over emphasizing the importance of a single game in a 24-game regular season schedule, it’s possible that SFU’s playoff positioning could be largely determined by the result of the game on February 15 in Nanaimo. With a win, the Clan would inch toward both VIU and Selkirk for the second and third playoff seeds whereas a loss would all but guarantee a fourth-place finish for the team.
Following the game in Nanaimo, the Clan will host the league leading Trinity Western University Spartans for a Family day matinee game. Puck drop is at 3 p.m on the February 18 Family day holiday at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.