LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Spartans men’s hockey team (4-6-1) kick off 2011 against the hottest team in the BCIHL in the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (9-1-0) Friday at 7:00 p.m. and then the coldest team in the BCIHL in the Selkirk Saints (1-11-0) the following night, Saturday, at 7:00 p.m.

Trinity Western's last action saw them split a two-game home series with Victoria, which left the Spartans still six points behind Victoria for that fourth and final playoff spot. With 13 games left in the regular season, the playoff push starts in earnest this weekend.

SPARTANS (4-6-1)
BCIHL Standing: 5th
Last Game: Victoria 4-2 L
Streak: 1 Loss
2009-10 BCIHL record (as Titans): 10-12-2 (5th)
2009-10 BCIHL playoffs (as Titans): 1-2 (4th)
Last BCIHL title: N/A

The Spartans finished the first half of the 2010-11 schedule with an up and down weekend, one in which TWU beat Victoria 2-1 on Friday but then lost 4-2 the following Saturday.

Trinity Western trailed Victoria by six points in the standings for the fourth and final playoff spot going into the weekend and was unable to make up any ground with the split.

But what the Spartans did do was prove they have the ability to play with the upper echelon teams as Victoria is a squad capable of beating the likes of Simon Fraser and Okanagan College. The win was also TWU’s first of the year against one of the top four teams in the BCIHL.

Although TWU managed to keep their last two games close, once again, a lack of goal scoring cropped up as a troubling concern. Trinity Western only scored four goals in two games and has now averaged just 3.1 goals per game all season. And in a league that has only one team averaging less than 2.9 goals per game, and one team, in Thompson Rivers, averaging 6.1 goals per game, there is clearly room for improvement.

The Spartans top scorer, Robert Vos with 12 points in 11 games, is tied for just 19th in league scoring and, after him only two TWU players, Nathan Wiebe with 10 points and Pete Masterton with nine, have more than six points on the year.

Despite Trinity Western’s offensive struggles, one bright spot has been the team’s powerplay which is still working at 19.0 per cent (2nd in the BCIHL). The only issue is that TWU’s 58 powerplay opportunities are the fewest in the league.

With Thompson Rivers in town Friday, the Spartans will have to be potent on both the powerplay and five-on-five as TRU’s 6.1 goals per game will be a tough train to slow down. On the bright side, in the last game TWU played against the WolfPack, the Spartans only lost 5-4.

While Friday’s tilt will be a difficult challenge, Saturday’s game against Selkirk is a more than winnable one – the last time they played TWU won 9-1 – but is also a game they can’t overlook.

BCIHL Standing: 2nd
Last Game: Fraser Valley 5-2 W
Streak: 5 Wins
2009-10 BCIHL record: 16-8-0 (2nd)
2009-10 BCIHL playoffs: 2-1 (3rd)
Last BCIHL title: N/A

Thompson Rivers comes into Langley riding a five-game winning streak and hoping to build upon what was an impressive first half of the regular season.  Through 10 games, the WolfPack is averaging a league-high 6.1 goals per game while only allowing 2.3 goals against per game, which has them tied with Simon Fraser for the league-low.

The WolfPack has been led offensively this year largely by Jassi Sangha, who is tied atop the BCIHL scoring race with 21 points in 10 games, but fortunately for TWU, Sangha won’t be suiting up for TRU as he was suspended for four games after being assessed a match penalty in late November. Forwards Tyler Halliday and Jose Reyes are also suspended for Friday’s game after being given game misconducts in the same match as Sangha’s altercation.

In net, TRU has had a three-horse carousel minding the crease as Richard Virtanen, Riley Wall and Anthony Manfredi have all seen at least three games worth of action this year. Virtanen started the last two games of the year and has the best numbers of the bunch with a 2.00 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

SELKIRK (1-11-0)
BCIHL Standing: 7th
Last Game: Fraser Valley 8-1 L
Streak: 7 losses
2009-10 BCIHL record: 2-21-1 (7th)
2009-10 BCIHL playoffs: N/A
Last BCIHL title: N/A

Selkirk has floundered near the bottom of the BCIHL standings all year as they only have one win in 12 games this year.

In the last two games combined, against TWU and Fraser Valley, the Saints have been outscored 17-2, which included a 9-1 drubbing at the hands of the Spartans. In that game, TWU outshot Selkirk 44-10 and were clearly the far better team right from the outset.

The Saints have struggled this year in a number of different areas as they are averaging a league-low 2.0 goals for per game, a league-high 6.8 goals against per game and are running a powerplay in which they are only scoring on 8.70 per cent of their opportunities.

Up front, the team is led by Travis Herlein who has six goals and two assists in 12 games.

Goalie Spenser Wong has played in 11 of the team’s 12 games and has a 6.76 GAA and a .859 save percentage.



Last Updated: 2011-01-06
Author: Mark Janzen