LANGLEY, British Columbia – Cage or not, it didn’t seem to matter to Trinity Western’s Florian Niedermaier (Davos, Switzerland), who scored two goals to lead the Spartans to a 4-1 win over Selkirk on senior athlete appreciation night Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Niedermaier opened the scoring in the first period and then, after taking a puck to the face and needing to don a cage, the Swiss forward, who also had an assist, tallied again in the second period to put the finishing touches on an impressive night for the Spartans.
On an evening when TWU honoured its graduating seniors, the Spartans snapped a three-game losing streak and, in doing so, put some separation between them and third-place Selkirk. TWU (12-5-0-2) is now five points ahead of the Saints (10-8-0-1) for second place in the BCIHL standings. The top two teams earn home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Both teams have five games remaining on their schedules.
Dirk de Waal (Lethbridge, Alta.) had a three-point night, with one goal and two assists, while defenceman Jacob Mills (Burnaby, B.C.) scored his first goal of the season. Jarrett Fontaine (Humboldt, Sask.) and Karsten Seidel (Delta, B.C.) had two assists each for TWU.
Goalie Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland), who was amongst TWU’s eight graduating seniors who were honoured, made 26 saves for the win.
The victory gives TWU the season series against the Saints have won four of its six meeting with Selkirk.
Ryan Edwards scored the lone goal for the Saints.
Selkirk’s Austin Wells allowed four goals on 22 shots.
“We should have senior night every night,” said Spartans coach Barret Kropf. “For the first time in a long time, we capitalized on our chances early. Getting that early 2-0 lead gave us so much confidence going into the second period. They had a push back, but our guys responded well. One of the keys for tonight was discipline. To be in a physical contest and stay that disciplined was another milestone for us. And all of our seniors who were in the lineup played remarkably well.”
If you ask Kropf, Friday’s result was seemingly in the works earlier in the week.
“We had a moment in practice this week where we had a challenge drill and the level of play in that drill was like a playoff game,” Kropf said. “It was crazy. But now I look back to that drill and I think that was a bit of a turning point for us.”
Cody Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.), who was honoured as one of the graduating seniors, became just the sixth player in league history to play in his 100th BCIHL game. He joined TWU alum Trevor Beaupre as the Spartans only two players to hit the century mark. Beaupre is third all-time, having played 109 games.
“Cody might have played his best game in the last four years tonight,” Kropf said. “His legs never stopped moving and he was causing turnovers all over the ice. He was fantastic.”
The other graduating seniors were Lucas Hildebrand (Vancouver), Aaron Gruenhage (Abbotsford, B.C.), Jamey Kreller (Winfield, B.C.), Brett Wur (St. Andrew’s, Man.), Riley Schmidt (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) and Andrew Wheeler (Maple Ridge, B.C.).
Niedermaier opened the scoring at 12:09 of the first period before de Waal doubled TWU’s lead just 2:47 later.
Edwards cut the Spartans lead in half less than three minutes into the middle frame, but second-period markers from TWU’s Mills and Niedermaier gave the home side all it would need to earn its first win since a victory over Simon Fraser Jan. 19.
The Spartans are back on the ice next weekend in their final home game of the regular season when they host Victoria in a rare Saturday afternoon tilt. Puck-drop is a 12:30 p.m. (PT).
Game Notes: The win was only the Spartans second regulation victory in their last nine games…the four goals TWU scored was the most it has put up since a 7-6 overtime win over Selkirk Dec. 2…TWU had averaged 1.5 goals per game over its last six outings…after next weekend’s game against Victoria, the Spartans play their final four regular season games on the road, travelling to play Eastern Washington twice and SFU twice.