By: Greg Makarov, Sports Writer
The Peak spoke to SFU hockey forward Garret Hilton about the team’s mentality during the quarter finals match up.
Hilton is a third year student whose goal was to “play in all situations and be a difference-maker when called upon.” He has done his part and then some, finishing the regular season as the second best scorer in the league with 17 points, and the leader scorer for his team in the playoffs with six points in two games.
Playoffs and Championship
SFU took on the Vancouver Island University Mariners (VIU) in their first playoff game on March 4. This matchup was anything but easy. Although both teams rely heavily on speed, the VIU team was physically bigger, and were not afraid to use their size: resulting in big hits and effective board battles.
In the first period, VIU kept SFU off the puck, barging into the offensive zone and putting two pucks past goaltender Michael Lenko. To start the second, SFU began grinding away to get themselves back into the game. They went to work tiring out the VIU team. The effort of the home team would have translated to goals if not for VIU goalie James Brendeland. Nevertheless, SFU forward Ryan Riggs scored to cut the lead in half heading into the third.
The final stretch of the game was the most nerve wracking. VIU player Caleb Franklin’s pass bounced off another player’s skates and found its way in the back of the net, restoring VIU’s two goal lead. SFU had their work cut out for them but Hilton said the team remained unfazed. “No one in the room really faltered from our game plan,” he added, “We just knew that if we could get within one, tie the game up, that the ball would start rolling for us.”
SFU seemed to find another gear. Their passes became crisper as Takato Cox scored to make it 3–2. The goal was like a bucket of cold water that woke up VIU, who attempted to shut down an SFU comeback. This strategy was axed early after SFU team captain Mitch Ledyard scored to tie the game on a pretty cross-ice passing play. This seemed to displease the Mariners, who began to press on with physical play, resulting in a hooking penalty.
SFU forward Kyle Bergh capitalized on the powerplay with a sneaky wrist shot to give SFU their first lead of the night. At this point, SFU was dictating the play, and Hilton sealed the deal with a wicked snapshot before adding an empty netter to give SFU a commanding 6–3 lead.
The quarter finals were a true test for SFU, who found themselves down a goal heading into the third period — far from an ideal scenario. However, SFU didn’t back away from the challenge. Hilton expressed the team’s success winning games this year gave them much needed confidence. “We’ve kinda just found a way all year to win, no matter what the score or the adversity.”
Congratulations to coach Mark Coletta and his SFU hockey team on a magnificent season! Hopefully the successes at this level may bode a future promotion to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.