By: Michael Lenko
The SFU Men’s Hockey team is looking to avenge a narrow 4–1 defeat suffered at the hands of the two-time defending Captain’s Cup champion UBC Thunderbirds in the deciding game of last year’s tournament. The third edition of the annual pre-season tournament will feature the Clan visiting Thunderbird Arena on September 14, followed by a visit from league rival Trinity Western University (TWU) to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. Both games should be a good measuring stick for SFU as the team builds toward the 2019–20 BCIHL season. This is due to the fact that UBC competes at the USports level, a division higher than the Clan, and TWU are the defending BCIHL (British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League) champions and are responsible for the Clan’s elimination last season. The Clan will attempt to hand UBC their first loss in the Captain’s Cup as the Thunderbirds have swept the tournament in its first two years. While SFU has lost their previous two Captain’s Cup match-ups against the Thunderbirds, they did defeat TWU in game one last season, which improved their overall record to 1–3 in the brief history of the tournament.
To be successful in the Captain’s Cup this season, SFU will look for a balanced attack from a mix of their 14 returning players and 15 new recruits. The revamped Clan roster is aiming to build off their 4–1 loss to UBC last season in which the Clan actually held the lead part way through the second period. This was an impressive achievement, despite the eventual loss, due to the fact that the Thunderbirds are a varsity team playing in a higher tier than the Clan. The game will likely be an even steeper uphill climb than last season as UBC returns a large portion of last year’s roster, including Carter Popoff, their leading scorer. UBC has also added eight new recruits, highlighted by Jarret Tyszka, the Montreal Canadians’ fifth round pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
In the second game of the Captain’s Cup, SFU will look to repeat their thrilling 4–3 overtime win over the Spartans in last year’s tournament. It will also be a chance for revenge given that the Spartans swept the Clan out of the BCIHL playoffs last year. The Clan will have to fend-off a Spartan offence that averaged 4.33 goals across nine head-to-head matchups last year. This is an even taller order with the void left by the graduation of 2018–19 BCIHL MVP Mathew Berry-Lamontagna. However, the return of a now healthy Dom Masellis, who missed most of last season, combined with the veteran presence of Arjan Cheema and a host of new recruits, should help the Clan overcome the defensive woes suffered against the Spartan’s last season.
To win their first Captain’s Cup, head coach Mark Coletta believes the Clan will need to move their feet and play an aggressive and confident style of play. When asked who he is most excited to see in game action, Coletta said that, “With a bunch of new guys coming into the room, you want to see everybody, you want to see what they did in junior and see if it translates to the college game.”
Coletta also noted that, while the series doesn’t have any effect on the regular season standings, it is important for the Clan to “set the tone” for 2019–20 and build momentum against its local rivals.
As the Clan look ahead to their regular season opener, coach Coletta is optimistic about the group he has seen come together in training camp.
“I’m just excited that we have a good group of returning guys and our freshman class is really excited and eager to be here,” he said following the final day of camp.
After the Captain’s Cup tournament, the Clan will have two weeks to prepare for its road trip to face off against NCAA division 1 opponents Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. Following the trip to Massachusetts, the BCIHL regular season will begin with the Clan’s home opener on October 11.