LANGLEY, British Columbia – The University of Victoria’s Shawn Mueller scored with 7.2 seconds to play in the third period, giving the Vikes a 3-2 victory over Trinity Western and the BCIHL title as visiting Victoria won Game 3 of the championship series Monday at the Langley Events Centre.
Mueller’s goal capped a wild final two minutes in which Victoria’s Patrick Holland put the Vikes up 2-1 on a power play with 1:58 in the third, before TWU’s Jarrett Fontaine (Humboldt, Sask.) tied the game with a shorthanded marker with 36 seconds to play.
With the Vikes still on the power play after a late TWU penalty, Mueller put Victoria up for good when slipped into the slot and snapped a shot past Spartans goalie Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) for the series-winner.
Fontaine and Holland also traded goals in the second period.
Victoria was three for three with the man-advantage, while TWU was held without a goal on its two opportunities.
“It was a great showcase for the league,” said Spartans coach Barret Kropf. “I think the parity was there all year. UVIC finishing fourth and then winning the championship, that’s not luck. They were banged up and injured in the first half and they got their bodies back and found their form. But to have a game like that and with the emotions going back and forth, it’ll be tough for our guys to deal with tonight, but we’ll be a stronger team next year because of it. Hats off to Victoria. They have a great lineup and Harry (Schamhart) has done a great job of building his culture and he gets rewarded with a championship.
“Overall, it was a great game for our fans, for the LEC, for the community and for the league. There’s nothing to hang our heads about tonight. We lost and we have to lick our wounds, but we couldn’t have asked for a better series.”
The Spartans had won Game 1 by a 5-0 count before dropping both Game 2 and Game 3 in dramatic fashion. TWU was 49 seconds away from the league title in Game 2, but Victoria tied the game late before winning it in overtime.
The championship is the fifth in Victoria’s history, but first since the BCIHL went to the best-of-three championship series format. The Vikes snap Selkirk’s four-year championship run. Victoria was the last team to win the title before the Saints streak. TWU, who has played in three of the last four BCIHL championship series, remains in search of its first ever league title.
After finishing fourth in the regular season and five games below .500, Victoria was 4-1 in the playoffs, upsetting first place Simon Fraser before beating second place TWU.
After a scoreless first period, Fontaine broke through at 5:22 of the second period when he raced down the left wing and snapped a shot to the top right corner past the glove of Vikes goalie Michael Fredrick. The Vikes netminder finished with 37 saves.
With 6:15 left in the middle frame, the Vikes tied the game when they held the puck in at the Spartans blueline and Mueller fed a wide open Holland in the slot. With time and space, the league’s leading scorer in the post-season beat TWU’s Matthys with a quick deke before tucking in a back hand.
Matthys, who was playing in his final game as a Spartan, finished with 22 saves. In five playoff games this year, he posted a 1.39 goals against average and a .952 save percentage. Matthys leaves the BCIHL as the league’s all-time leader in regular season wins with 37.
With the game knotted 1-1, the Spartans found themselves shorthanded with 3:44 to play in the third period and Holland took advantage, wheeling down the right wing and whipping a shot to the short side that beat Matthys up top.
After another Spartans penalty with 1:33 to play, the game appeared all but over. However, after TWU won an offensive zone faceoff, Fontaine deflected a Kaleb Denham (Innisfail, Alta.) point shot past Fredrick, sending the home crowd into hysterics.
With overtime looming, Holland silenced the Spartan Faithful with his goal at 19:53 of the third period.
In the stands, the Spartans set a men’s hockey record with 630 in attendance.
“The crowd was unbelieivable,” Kropf said. “The guys love that kind of support and feed off it. I love the direction the school is going and embracing each other across campus. That wasn’t all student-athletes tonight. That was campus-wide and also included alumni and I just really like where things are going at TWU.”
Victoria scored four of their five goals in the series on the power play. TWU was unsuccessful on all seven of its power play chances in the three-game series.
The Spartans lost in the BCIHL championship series in both 2014 and 2016.