by Mark Janzen
March 4, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – For the first time since 2011, the Trinity Western men’s hockey team is back in the BCIHL post-season and the Spartans will take on Simon Fraser in a BCIHL best-of-three semifinal series starting Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.
All playoff games will be streamed live at http://bcihl.fasthockey.com/.
Thursday’s series-opening contest will mark the first time the TWU men’s hockey team will host a playoff game since coming under the Spartans umbrella in 2010. When the team played as a club side under the Titans moniker, it hosted the BCIHL championship tournament in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
The Spartans went 1-4 against SFU during the regular season. In their first four games, SFU outscored TWU 25-6, but the Spartans earned a 4-3 shootout win in their most recent meeting.
Since 2006-07, the TWU men’s hockey team has a 2-13 record in the playoffs. As Spartans, TWU has a 1-2 post-season record and has only played Victoria and the now-defunct Okanagan College.
Game 1: Thursday, March 6th – 8:00 PM, Langley Events Centre
Game 2: Friday, March 7th – 7:00 PM, Bill Copeland Sport Centre
Game 3: Sunday, March 9th – 8:00 PM, Bill Copeland Sport Centre
The other semifinal series has Selkirk hosting Thompson Rivers. The winners of the two series will play in a best-of-three championship series Mar. 14-16.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (10-13-0-1)
BCIHL Standings: 3rd
Last weekend: Eastern Washington 6-5 L, Selkirk 3-2 L (OT)
Streak: 2 losses
PP%: 19.8 (5th)
PK%: 71.3 (6th)
GF: 68 (4th)
GA: 103 (5th)
BACK IN THE POST-SEASON
After winning just 10 games in the last two seasons combined, the Spartans, under first-year head coach Barret Kropf, equaled that total in just one season after putting together a 10-win 2013-14 campaign. The Spartans return to the playoffs after missing out for the last years and will participate in the current post-season format for the first time. Prior to 2012-13, the playoffs consisted of a five-team tournament contested over one weekend.
THE JP AND SILAS SHOW
Offensively, JP Villeneuve has been far and away the star of the Spartans show. With 21 goals and 12 assists in 22 games, the first-year forward had 20 more points in the regular season than his nearest teammate. Meanwhile, in net, Silas Matthys has found a groove recently and has had 48 and 60-save efforts in two of the last four games he’s played.
There’s no doubt the Spartans enter this weekend’s series as the underdog. The Clan has lost just three games in regulation this year while winning 19. Compare that to TWU’s 10 wins and 13 regulation losses and the disparity is obvious. However, for TWU, it can garner hope from the fact that the last time they played SFU, the Spartans won 6-5 in a shootout.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
JP Villeneuve – The Spartans top goal-scorer this year tallied 30.9 per cent of the Spartans goals this year and, including his assists, had a hand in 48.5 per cent of TWU’s offensive output. The question is, can he keep up his torrid pace in the playoffs when SFU will be keying on the Spartans most dangerous offensive weapon?
Brad Bakken – The Spartans captain is certainly one of TWU’s emotional leaders. He doesn’t back down from anyone and he competes as hard as anyone. However, he’s had 10 or more penalty minutes in four games this year. If he can channel his energy and stay out of the box, he will be a difference-maker.
Mattias Schmitt – If TWU is going to give SFU its best shot, the Spartans will need some secondary scoring beyond Villeneuve. Schmitt was second in team scoring with 13 points this year and he’ll need to be one of the guys to step up and help fill the net.
SIMON FRASER (19-3-0-2)
BCIHL Standings: 2nd
Last weekend: Victoria 3-2 W (SO)
Streak: 1 win
PP%: 23.9 (2nd)
PK%: 83.3 (2nd)
GF: 113 (2nd)
GA: 56 (2nd)
GUNNING TO GET BACK TO THE TOP
After winning back-to-back BCIHL championships in 2010 and 2011, the Clan has come up just shy of the title in each of the past two years, losing in the title game in 2012 and getting swept in the championship series in 2013. This year, they finished second to Selkirk in the regular season, but are aiming to get back to the top and that journey begins Thursday in Langley.
After losing just two games through their first 18 contests, SFU finished the regular season with three losses in its last six outings. While the Clan’s only regulation time loss over that stretch was a 3-2 setback against Selkirk, SFU enters the post-season with just a 3-1-2 record in the month of February, which includes shootout losses to both TWU and Eastern Washington.
WARNING: OFFENCE MAY EXPLODE
As the Spartans found out in their four losses to SFU, the Clan’s offence can be a dangerous piece of business. Simon Fraser outscored the Spartans 25-6 in its four wins over TWU, which includes a pair of 7-1 wins, a 6-2 win and a 5-2 win. Led by Jono Ceci and Nick Sandor, who finished first and second respectively in the BCIHL scoring race, the Clan has the potential to fill the net on any given night.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jono Ceci – With 47 points in 24 games, Ceci averaged nearly two points per game this year as he led the BCIHL in scoring. In five games against TWU, he had three goals and 10 assists.
Nick Sandor – Sandor led the Clan in scoring with 18 goals and was fourth in league goal-scoring. However, in five games against TWU this year, he didn’t score a single goal. He had nine assists in those five contests, but TWU was the only team in the league to keep him from scoring a goal this year.
Jared Eng – Eng led all BCIHL blueliners in scoring this year with eight goals and 12 assists in 23 games. His four power play markers also had him just two goals off the league lead. After playing two seasons with NCAA Div. 1 Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, he joined SFU this year and his offensive game arrived exactly as advertised.