Scorching season start for SFU hockey

An analysis and discussion on the team’s systems and performance

A photo of SFU goaltender Michael Lenko making a blocker save during warmups.
Matheiu Jallabert, newly named assistant captain, has two goals through three games. Photo: Krystal Chan / The Peak

By: Greg Makarov, SFU Student

It’s been a great first three games for SFU’s hockey team who confidently beat their opponents, the Okanagan Lakers and the Vancouver Island Mariners (VIU). In a strong start to the season, they were able to create some separation in the standings with two points and one game in hand over their closest opponent. Through the first three games, the team scored more goals and conceded less than any other opponent, sporting a stellar +10 goal differential. 

The structure of the team relies on offensive minded defensemen to jump in and pass the puck down low to forwards to keep possession. This allows speedy forwards such as Kyle Bergh, BC’s Intercollegiate Hockey League Player of the Week, to fly into the offensive zone. It also enables creativity and constant puck movement. This strategy has paid off so far, as half of the team’s defense is above 0.7 points per game. Meanwhile, the other half of the defensive core is able to focus on their own zone and properly manage the puck out of dangerous situations. 

During their game on Sunday against the hard hitting VIU, effective passing in tight areas created space and time for players in the offensive zone. When SFU was down a player in their own zone, the penalty kill came through. The team did not concede any power play goals and was confident in their zone, leaving no room for scrambles for the puck at the front of the net.

Wondering how they were able to implement this strategy, I asked assistant captain and one of the penalty killing forwards Mathieu Jallabert. He told me, push the opponent to the outside, capitalize on bobbled pucks, and send it down the length of the ice. 

This team oriented plan worked well for Jallabert who had a couple rush chances and two good stick plays on the penalty kill. 

Of course, not all systems are perfect but when one might fail, there was always a brick wall in the net to stop the puck. SFU goaltenders Michael Lenko and Cale Dolan have been lights out, stopping virtually any shot thrown their way. Lenko is sporting a shiny league leading save percentage of 0.963% while rookie Cale Dolan has started off with a bang, allowing one goal on 26 shots with a 0.962% save percentage. 

It was a blast to go and see an exciting team that was creative, fast, hard working, and not afraid to take a hit for a powerplay opportunity. Oh, and if you’re not intrigued yet, then look no further than the attempt at the famous Michigan goal by Takato Cox, who almost tucked it in while pivoting around the back of the net with the puck on the blade of his stick.

The competitiveness and depth shown by the squad gives them a legitimate chance at a championship banner, something SFU has not seen in a decade