BURNABY, British Columbia – Trinity Western defenceman Kaleb Denham (Innisfail, Alta.) was forced into forward duty and he looked like a natural as he recorded the first hat-trick of his university career in leading the Spartans to a 3-1 win over Simon Fraser Friday at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.
With injuries wreaking havoc on the Spartans roster, coach Barret Kropf was forced to alter his lineup, but he uncovered a gem with Denham, Evan Last (Surrey, B.C.) and Brett Wur (St. Andrew’s, Man.) joining to create a line that scored all three goals.
“When you have all kinds of injuries and you have to juggle lines, you’re never really sure how those lines are going to come together,” Kropf said. “We put the lines into a blender tonight and came up with a pretty interesting combination of Wur, Last and Denham and it ended up paying off huge dividends.”
With the victory, the Spartans (16-5-0-2) set up a regular season finale Saturday against the Clan (17-4-0-2), which will see the winner capture the BCIHL’s regular season title. A TWU win would see the teams tie for top spot. However, TWU, who has won five straight games, would win the tiebreaker thanks to possessing the better record in the teams’ regular season series. Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m. (PT) at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre. TWU is 3-2 this year against the Clan.
Denham opened the scoring midway through the second period before he doubled TWU’s lead just 34 seconds into the third period.
After SFU’s Jaret Babych made it a one goal game with just under nine minutes to play, Denham completed the hat-trick and solidified the win with 4:07 to play.
A first place finish in the BCIHL standings would ensure the Spartans would have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. TWU has won the BCIHL regular season title once before, in 2014-15. If the Spartans earn a win Saturday, they would finish with exactly the same 17-5-0-2 record that won them the title two years ago.
TWU’s Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) made 25 saves for the win, while the Clan’s Lyndon Stanwood stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced.
“Denny had a great game, but it really was a 20-man effort tonight,” Kropf said. “From Silas through to all six defencemen and all 12 forwards, it was great way to come into an opposition’s barn and limit their opportunities. We had lots of success tonight and hopefully we can carry this forward because the guys are really come together and we’re looking forward to trying to wrap this thing up tomorrow.”
After a scoreless first period, Denham broke through at 6:22 of the middle frame, with Last getting his first of two assists on the night.
Denham put TWU up by two goals early in the third period before Babych responded at 11:13 of the frame.
The Spartans captain sealed the win when he scored his third late in the game.
With his two-assist night, TWU’s Last moved into top spot in the BCIHL’s scoring race with seven goals and 23 assists. The Spartans have never had a player win the league scoring title.