SFU hockey take three of four points but fall out of contention for second place

Shootout loss on Saturday means the Clan will now finish third or fourth

SFU captain Mathew Berry-Lamontagna tied the BCIHL record for games played over the weekend. (Photo courtesy of SFU hockey.)

By: Dylan Webb

A couple of weeks ago, the SFU men’s hockey team knew they had an opportunity to take advantage of multiple games in hand to leapfrog their rivals in the standings and build momentum as playoffs quickly approached. After a weekend series at home against the visiting UVIC Vikes, the Clan have played out most of their games in hand.

Unfortunately, a nail-biting shoot-out loss to the Vikes on the back end of the weekend double-header has ensured the Clan will play at least the first round, and possibly the second, on the road.

Now, with only two games remaining in their regular-season schedule, the Clan face only two possibilities for their first-round playoff matchup: either a showdown with their geographical rival and league leading Trinity Western University Spartans or a visit to the hostile confines of the Castlegar recreation center for a series against the Selkirk Saints.

On Friday night, the Clan rode a stellar performance from netminder Michael Lenko to a 4–0 shutout victory over the Vikes. While goaltending was a significant factor in the win, the team was also able to penetrate into scoring areas relatively effectively, especially in the second half of the game, and also maintained strong defensive zone play.

Scoring in the win were forwards Jaret Babych, Kyle Bergh, and Cole Plotnikoff, all in the second period, with captain Matthew Berry-Lamontagna tallying the opening goal in the first. The victory momentarily kept the Clan’s hopes of a second-place finish — and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs — alive, as the team would have needed to win their remaining three games, with the final two against Selkirk needing to be in regulation time.

Disappointingly, the Clan were unable to repeat their strong performance the following evening and would see their hopes for favourable playoff positioning fade away. The focus now turns to building momentum for a first round series on the road.

On Saturday night, SFU fell 3–2 in a shootout for just the fourth win of the season for the visiting Vikes. Again, the game was an extremely tight checking for the first half of the game, but this time, the trend continued for the duration of the contest. This time around, the Clan could only muster limited offense with goals from forwards Ian Mackey and Mitch Ledyard.

After an intense third period that saw multiple penalties handed out and a huge amount of special teams play, the game moved to three-on-three overtime. Somewhat surprisingly, given the wide open nature of the new overtime format, this decided nothing. A shootout followed in which the Clan, opting to shoot first, were unable to beat UVIC netminder Zack Wear on any of their three attempts. This meant that a single goal on two attempts by the Vikes was enough to secure the win.

Starting both games for the Clan over the weekend, Michael Lenko arguably had one of the best weekends of play in his BCIHL rookie season. With a shutout on Friday night, Lenko followed it up by giving his team a chance to win again with 28 saves on 30 shots on Saturday plus one save on two attempts in the shootout. As playoffs are now just two weekends away, the Clan will count on Lenko to continue to strengthen his play throughout the rest of this season, into the postseason and in years to come (Lenko is playing his first year for SFU hockey.)  

Discussing the team’s performance over the weekend, coach Mark Coletta lamented the inconsistencies in the club’s execution throughout the crucial stretch of games the Clan is on the verge of completing.

“At times, we are competing hard, using our team speed to set the tone and carry the play while at other times we are sitting back, not fighting for pucks and letting the other team dictate the pace of play,” he said following the shootout loss on Saturday night. Building on this, Coletta noted that the team has all the pieces it needs to make a playoff run but that “it will be up to the team as a whole to find a way to consistently play at its best over the next month.”

What’s next:

SFU will play their remaining two games of the regular season on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2 at home at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre before moving into the first round of the BCIHL playoffs the following weekend. Both games will have a 7 p.m puck drop.

The visiting Selkirk Saints will arrive with their playoff seed already clinched and only their first-round opponent left to be determined. The Saints will face the VIU (Vancouver Island University) Mariners in the first round of the playoffs if they defeat the Clan in regulation time in either game this coming weekend. On the other hand, the Clan will only secure a first-round playoff series in Castlegar against the Saints if they are able to take at least three of a possible four points over the weekend.

Otherwise, the Clan will open up the playoffs on the road in Langley against the league leading TWU Spartans. As the spring semester enters the home stretch and the BCIHL regular season winds down, it is clear that regardless of concerns over playoff positioning, it is now or never for the Clan as they look to put everything together and build momentum in time for a run at the BCIHL championship.

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