By: Dylan Webb
After a regular season grind that spanned two academic semesters, 24 games, and most of southern British Columbia between Castlegar and Victoria, the SFU hockey team opened the first round of the BCIHL playoffs Thursday night. Playing at the Aldergrove Community Arena against their geographical rival, the Trinity Western University Spartans, the Clan got their first taste of BCIHL playoff hockey in over two years.
The Clan took an early lead with Kyle Bergh’s first goal of the game just under five minutes into the opening frame. Unfortunately for the Clan, their only lead of the game would last approximately thirty seconds as the Spartans responded almost immediately to tie the game. Adding two more tallies in the second half of the first period, the Spartans opened up a two-goal lead on goals from Jacob Mills and Dylan Sakatch that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
In the second, frustration mounted for the Clan as the Spartans struck almost immediately following the opening faceoff to expand their lead to three. While Bergh added his second of the game just one minute after the Spartans fourth goal, the Clan were unable to muster further offensive production and would allow another goal against late in the frame to effectively put the contest out of reach heading into the third.
In the final frame, Bergh completed his hat-trick by netting his third of the game on a Clan powerplay. While Bergh’s standout offensive performance certainly comprised one of his best games of the season on an individual level, multiple defensive breakdowns and scrambled zone play by the team as a whole prevented the Clan from closing the gap. The final score, a 6–3 win for the Spartans, means the Clan will now head back to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre for what now shapes up to be a must win game two of the series if the Clan hopes to extend their BCIHL season beyond Friday night.
In goal, Michael Lenko, BCIHL co-player of the month for February/March started the series opener and took the loss while making 35 saves on 41 shots. Lenko looks to be in line for the start in game two as his solid performance in the opener appears to have instilled enough confidence in head coach Mark Coletta to warrant back to back starts for the rookie netminder.
Discussing the factors that contributed to a less than stellar performance as a whole on behalf of the Clan, backup goaltender Ryan Sandrin noted that the team “struggled to maintain intensity throughout the entire 60 minutes.” Further to this, he felt the Clan’s struggles with “team discipline and defensive zone structure” were significant factors in the series opening loss.
With their potential elimination from the BCIHL playoffs looming, the Clan now turns their attention to their final home game of the 2019/2019 season with the hope that a friendly crowd will give them a much-needed boost in support of their effort to stave off elimination. If the Clan are unable to secure a win, their season will end Friday night on home ice in disappointing fashion and the Spartans will move on to face the winner of the Selkirk/VIU series for the league championship. If the Clan are able to secure a win in their final game on home ice this season, the series will shift to a decisive game three back at the Aldergrove Community Arena on Saturday night.
Given the nature of the BCIHL playoff structure and the Clan’s fourth-place finish in the regular season, even if the Clan do secure a win Friday night and then take the series from the Spartans on Saturday, the Clan would play every remaining game on the road on their path to the BCIHL championship. As Ryan Sandrin, Darnel St. Pierre, Jaret Babych, Graham Smerek, Brendan Lamont and captain Mathew Berry-Lamontagna suit up for their final appearance in Clan red at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre, the team will look to put together a more complete performance that will, at the very least, prolong the BCIHL careers of these Clan veterans by one more game.