TWU Spartans aiming for first ever BCIHL Championship

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by Mark Janzen

March 12, 2014, LANGLEY, British Columbia (ISN) – After an upset win over favoured Simon Fraser in the BCIHL semifinals, the Trinity Western men’s hockey team will look to duplicate its effort this weekend as it aims for the league title against top ranked Selkirk in the Spartans first appearance in a league championship game or series.

Prior to this year, TWU had never finished higher than fourth in the BCIHL playoffs, but now the Spartans have a chance to do something historic as they will travel to Castlegar, B.C. this weekend with intentions of bringing home a championship banner.

However, to do so, the Spartans will need to do something they haven’t done all year: beat the defending BCIHL champion Selkirk Saints.

Championship Round – (#1) Selkirk College vs. (#3) Trinity Western University

Game 1: Friday, March 14th – 7:30 PM at Castlegar Recreation Complex

Game 2: Saturday, March 15th – 7:30 PM at Castlegar Recreation Complex

Game 3: Sunday, March 16th – 6:00 PM at Castlegar Recreation Complex (if necessary)

All Games can be seen LIVE on bcihl.fasthockey.com. In series where the travel time between opponents is five hours or more, the higher seeded team will hosts Games 1, 2 and 3 (if necessary).

This year, TWU lost all seven meetings with Selkirk, including five regular season games and a pair of preseason contests. But, despite their struggles this season against Selkirk – a team that finished atop the BCIHL regular season standings with a 20-3-0-1 record and earned its spot in the final with two straight wins over Thompson Rivers in the semifinals – the Spartans can look to their recent form for a reason to believe they can beat the Saints.

Since losing by five or more goals in three straight games against Selkirk in early November – within the span of eight days, TWU lost to the Saints 6-0, 6-1 and 8-2 – the Spartans have closed the gap. A mid-February game saw TWU lose by just three goals, 4-1, on the road against the Saints and, most recently in both teams’ season finales, the Spartans pushed Selkirk to overtime before losing 3-2.

Knocking off the Clan proved the Spartans can play with and beat the frontrunners. With goalie Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) and forward JP Villeneuve (Georgetown, Ont.) leading the way, the Spartans are a team on the rise and with momentum on their side have their sights set on completing what has already been an unprecedented run.

THREE KEYS FOR TWU

Protect the House

While the Spartans were outshot 115-64 over the course of their three-game series with SFU, the majority of the Clan’s shots came from the perimetre. The Spartans did well to keep SFU to the outside while forcing the Clan into low percentage attempts. There’s no question Selkirk will get its shots, but limiting the Saints high-quality chances and protecting the “house” within the defensive zone will be critical to TWU’s success.

JP Villeneuve

The Spartans scoring sensation has been the catalyst behind TWU’s offensive success all season. He led the team in goals, with 21, during the regular season, and added five more in three playoff games. If TWU is to pull the upset this weekend, Villeneuve will have to be at his best.

Silas Matthys

The Swiss goaltender stopped 110 of the 115 shots he faced in the Spartans series with SFU and it’s likely he could face a similar barrage of rubber. In the Spartans last two games against Selkirk, Matthys made a combined 108 saves and he’ll have to be equally as sharp this weekend to give TWU a chance.

THREE KEYS FOR SELKIRK

Vex Villeneuve

Without a doubt, the Spartans success has been directly hinged to the goal-scoring prowess of Villeneuve. He was in on 48.5 per cent of TWU’s goals during the regular season and scored five of the Spartans seven goals in the playoffs. If Selkirk can slow Villeneuve, it can slow the Spartans.

Put the Puck in the Net

It sounds simple, but the Saints need to do a better job of burying their chances. Prior to a three-goal outburst in the third period of Game 2 against TRU, the Saints had scored just six goals on 84 shots (7.1 per cent) in 91:10 of playoff hockey. In its last two games against TWU, Selkirk has scored just seven goals on 114 shots (6.1 per cent).

Utilize its Depth

There’s no question that Selkirk enters this series as the favourite and that’s largely because of its depth. The Saints have 10 players who had more regular season points than TWU’s second leading scorer. If they can roll their lines and grind down TWU, they can have success.

STATISTICAL COMPARISON (playoffs)

Playoffs Record

TWU – 2-1

Selkirk – 2-0

Goals For (playoffs)

TWU – 7 (2nd)

Selkirk – 9 (1st)

Goals Against (playoffs)

TWU – 5 (1st – tied)

Selkirk – 5 (1st – tied)

Power Play (playoffs)

TWU – 7.1% (4th)

Selkirk – 33.3% (2nd)

Penalty Kill (playoffs)

TWU – 86.7% (2nd)

Selkirk – 62.5% (4th)

Leading Scorer (playoffs)

TWU – JP Villeneuve – GP (3), G (5), A (0), Pts. (5)

Selkirk – Cody Fidgett – GP (2), G (1), A (3), Pts. (4)

Top Goalie (playoffs)

TWU – Silas Matthys – GP (3), GAA (1.67), Save% (.957)

Selkirk – Chris Hurry – GP (2), GAA (2.29), Save% (.896)

STATISTICAL COMPARISON (regular season)

Regular Season Record

TWU – 10-13-0-1

Selkirk – 20-3-0-1

Goals For (regular season)

TWU – 68 (4th)

Selkirk – 133 (1st)

Goals Against (regular season)

TWU – 103 (5th)

Selkirk – 53 (1st)

Power Play (regular season)

TWU – 19.8% (5th)

Selkirk – 24.3% (1st)

Penalty Kill (regular season)

TWU – 71.4% (6th)

Selkirk – 84.9% (1st)

Leading Scorer (regular season)

TWU – JP Villeneuve – GP (22), G (21), A (12), Pts. (33)

Selkirk – Logan Proulx – GP (24), G (15), A (27), Pts. (42)

Top Goalie (regular season)

TWU – Silas Matthys – GP (14), GAA (4.05), Save% (.893)

Selkirk – Chris Hurry – GP (17), GAA (1.87), Save% (.925)

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