The Selkirk College Saints start defence of their British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) championship title on Thursday in Langley against the Trinity Western University Spartans in a best-of-three semi-final series.
The Saints have won four straight BCIHL championships and will be looking to make more history in the next couple weeks with a fifth title. If they are to be successful, the third-place Saints will need to conquer teams that finished higher in the regular season standings.
“As a team we have to find a way to go down and try to win in Trinity because that’s a hard arena to play in,” says Saints’ veteran forward Alex Milligan. “The arena is big and it’s quiet, nothing like what we get to enjoy at home. We have to bring our own energy as a team because we can’t rely on our home fans to help bring that energy.”
A member of the BCIHL since 2006, the Spartans are hungry for their first championship. Trinity Western has been close before, but in both 2014 and 2016 the Saints beat the Spartans in the league final to claim their second and fourth titles. The Spartans held the advantage in the 2016-2017 regular season, beating the Saints four times and losing twice.
“Since the first year Selkirk College won a championship, all the other teams have been trying to knock the Saints off,” says Milligan, who will graduate from the Saints after three years with the team. “They want the top spot and know that they have beat the best team. That is another motivation for us, we are going into these games knowing that the teams want to beat us that much more. As a team, I think we have the group that can continue this dynasty.”
The Saints closed out the BCIHL regular season with a weekend split against the Eastern Washington University Eagles. They scored a 4-1 win on Friday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre and then dropped a 5-3 decision in Cheney, Washington the next evening. Eight different Saints—Milligan, Matt Martin, Garrett Halls, Ryan Edwards, Brady Ward, Troy Maclise and Wade Johnson—scored goals over the weekend.
Despite finishing in third place with a 14-9-0-1 record during the regular season and entering this year’s post-season as the underdogs, Saints players are confident they have the experience to overcome the challenges ahead.
“It’s a different feeling starting the playoffs on the road, but I like the confidence of the team right now,” says Edwards, a third-year Saints forward. “It will take a lot of hard work and everyone buying into the system… it’s simple but it works.”
Already the most decorated team in BCIHL history, the Saints will need an entire team effort if they are to bring home the provincial banner later this month.
“It’s going to be an interesting playoffs,” says Saints coach Brent Heaven. “I think we can beat every team in this league and I think they all feel the same. Three games jammed into one weekend, there is a lot of emotion and energy… it can shake out in ways you don’t imagine. You certainly can’t count any of these teams out.”
The Saints begin defense of their BCIHL title against the Spartans on Thursday night at the George Preston Recreation Centre in Langley. The teams play Game Two on Friday night and if necessary Game Three will be played Saturday. Should the Saints win their series and the University of Victoria upset top-seed Simon Fraser in the other semi-final, Selkirk College would host the best-of-three league championship final starting March 17.