LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western men’s hockey team won the battle for Langley Events Centre bragging rights as the Spartans knocked off their fellow LEC tenants, the Langley Rivermen, by a 4-3 count in preseason action Thursday.
The Spartans took a 4-0 lead into the third period but were forced into a tight game late, as the Rivermen put together a furious comeback attempt. However, ultimately the rally came up one-goal short.
Dawson Sawatzky (Calgary) tallied two goals to lead the way for TWU while Kaleb Denham (Innisfail, Alta.) and Dirk de Waal (Lethbridge, Alta.) each scored their first goals in a Spartans uniform. Langley responded with goals from Justin Fregona, Taylor Leger and Max Kaufman
Playing in their first preseason contest of the 2015-16 campaign, the Spartans broke the game open in the second period with three goals, but a wild final frame nearly turned the result on its head.
Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) made 38 saves in the win as it was Langley outshooting TWU 41-25.
“We had eight of our vets out of the lineup tonight, so it was a good chance for the young guys to step up,” said Spartans coach Barret Kropf. “I’m pretty happy with the way the guys played and going down to four defencemen with 15 minutes to play (due to an injury and a misconduct) was tough, so I’m pretty happy with the effort knowing that we didn’t have a lot of our regulars in the lineup.”
Denham got the Spartans on the board in the first period when his power play point shot found its way to the back of the net.
Langley’s best chance of the opening frame came in dying seconds when Matthew Graham raced in on a shorthanded breakaway, but he was unable to beat Matthys.
Midway through the second, Dawson scored twice in 1:04, burying a mid-range rebound on both occasions, to put TWU by three.
Then, de Waal scored what would prove to be the winner when he took a cross-ice pass from PJ Buys (Newmarket, Ont.) off a two-on-one and slid it into a gaping net.
In the third, Langley’s Fregona sparked the Rivermen’s goal barrage when raced down the right wing and whipped a shot past Matthys on the short side.
Then, with just under five minutes to play, Langley’s Leger banged home a rebound just over Matthys’ pad to make it a two-goal game.
Things got really interesting late when Kaufman put together a special solo effort off the right wing, beating the Spartans blueliner around the outside and tucking it past a sprawling Matthys.
However, that was as close at the Rivermen would get as TWU held on for the win.
“I think there was some nervous energy in the first 20 minutes,” Kropf said. “In the second, we started battling and the intensity was good. Tempers got up a little bit but it wasn’t anything that was out of control. In the third, we sort of settled into a groove and they started coming on and that’s where their conditioning showed.”
Matthys made his best save of the night early in the third period when he stymied Kaufman with a quick glove save on a shot from the slot.
The Spartans will now take on Simon Fraser in a pair of exhibition tilts Sept. 11 on the road and Sept. 17 back at the LEC.
The Rivermen are back on the ice Friday when they host Merritt in an exhibition contest.
Game Notes: TWU was 1-2 in exhibition play last year, with its lone win coming over SFU…the Spartans finished atop the BCIHL regular season standings last year with a 17-5-0-2 record…TWU opens the regular season Oct. 2-3 on the road against Selkirk.