By: Dylan Webb
After a long season of highs and lows, spanning two academic semesters, the SFU hockey team can finally close the book on what was at times a frustrating regular season, and turn their attention to a fresh start in the BCIHL playoffs.
Closing out their regular-season schedule with a double-header weekend series against the visiting Selkirk Saints, the Clan needed to earn three of a possible four points to secure third place and a first-round series in Castlegar against the Saints. After absolutely dominating the Saints in every facet of the game for a full 60 minutes on Friday night, a lesser effort on Saturday night cost the Clan a chance at third place. Finishing with 25 points through 24 regular season games, just one-point shy of third-place VIU, the Clan will now face their cross-town rival, the league-leading TWU Spartans, in the first round of the BCIHL playoffs.
In the penultimate contest of their regular-season schedule, the Clan took advantage of a travel-weary opponent to put together what was easily their best performance all season. The Clan rode three-point performances from four players, Matthew Berry-Lamontagna, Mitch Newsome and Cole Plotnikoff, including a hat trick from forward Jaret Babych, to pummel the Saints by a shocking 10–0 margin.
A balanced attack throughout all three periods saw the Clan score four times in the first, three in the second, and three more in the third. The win for the Clan ensured that the following night’s game, the final game of the regular season for both teams, would have serious consequences for the first-round BCIHL playoff bracket and the first-round opponents for both teams.
On Saturday night, with third place on the line, the Clan were unable to continue their dominance of the Saints and would eventually fall 6–5 on a late goal. Unsurprisingly, with more time to recover from a debilitating nine-hour bus ride from Castlegar to Burnaby, the Saints brought a much more complete effort and forced numerous turnovers throughout the game.
While the Clan again benefitted from a balanced offensive attack with goals from Arjan Cheema, Mac Colasimone, Cole Plotnikoff, Kyle Bergh and Graham Smerek, they were unable to adequately tighten their team defense to keep enough pucks out of their own net. With the loss, the Clan entrenched themselves in fourth place, which ensured their first-round match up against the Spartans.
Between the pipes, BCIHL player of the week Michael Lenko started Friday night for the Clan and continued his recent run of strong play with his second shutout in three games. Turning aside just 13 shots, with a stunning zero shots recorded for the visitors in the third period, Lenko benefitted from a dominating offensive performance in his sixth win of the season. With the win, Lenko finished his regular season with a 6-8 record, a 3.13 GAA and a .894 save percentage.
On Saturday, graduating senior Ryan Sandrin started in goal for the Clan and took the loss in what looks to be his final regular season action in Clan red. Sandrin finished his BCIHL regular season with a 6–4 record, a 3.11 GAA and a .884 save percentage.
Before puck drop on Saturday night, the Clan celebrated graduating seniors Ryan Sandrin (G), Darnel St. Pierre (D), Jaret Babych (F), Graham Smerek (F), Brendan Lamont (F) and captain Mathew Berry-Lamontagna (D) for their contributions to the SFU ice hockey team over the past four years. Coach Mark Coletta faces a tall recruiting task over the off-season to attempt to replace such important components of the Clan.
Addressing his team’s impending playoff series against the rival Spartans, coach Mark Coletta noted that the Clan have, at one point this season, defeated each of the other three teams that have clinched berths in the BCIHL postseason.
“If our team shows up with the type of effort that we have seen flashes of this year, we’ll be just fine in the playoffs,” he said following the loss Saturday night. Discussing preparation for the first round, he noted, “The key for our team heading into a short series playoff format will be consistency.”
With a quick turnaround, as the first-round series kicks off with a rare Thursday night contest in Aldergrove at the George Preston Recreation center, the Clan will only have a shortened week of practice to ensure they set themselves up to consistently perform at their best.
As mentioned, the Clan now turn their attention toward the first round of the BCIHL playoffs with games one and two of their first round series with the Spartans scheduled for Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8 respectively. Given the geographical proximity of the first-round opponents, the Clan will benefit from having one guaranteed home game in the first round series, game two on Friday night, which would not have been the case if the Clan were to match up against the Saints in Castlegar in the first round. If necessary, game three of the series will take place Saturday night back at the George Preston Recreation Centre in Aldergrove.
In the other first-round series of the BCIHL playoffs, the VIU Mariners will visit the Selkirk Saints for at least two games in the hostile confines of the Castlegar Recreation center. If the Clan are able to squeeze by the league-leading Spartans in their first round series, they will face off against the winner of the VIU-Selkirk series for the BCIHL title on the road given their fourth-place finish.
The Clan’s chase for the BCIHL title starts this Thursday in Aldergrove and continues at home at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre with game two of the series set for 7 p.m Friday, March 8.