SEASON REWIND AND LOOK AHEAD: PART 6 - MEN'S HOCKEY

John-Paul Chapman

MEN'S HOCKEY
FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011
SEASON REWIND

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEASON REWIND AND LOOK AHEAD: PART 6 - MEN'S HOCKEY

LANGLEY, British Columbia – After yet another outstanding year for the Spartans in the sporting arena and with the 2010-11 season just over a week away from being officially put to bed, we take a look back at each team and the season they had competing for Spartans Athletics and a look forward into what the future might hold in 2011-12.

 

Today: Men's Hockey
April 11: Women's Volleyball
April 12: Men's Basketball
April 13: Men's Volleyball

The Trinity Western men’s hockey team has been consistent. At least in regards to its overall placing at end of the playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, it’s a consistency that’s not all that flattering.

For the fifth year in a row, Trinity Western was forced to settle for fourth place in the BCIHL playoffs. And like last season, the Spartans were eliminated with a loss that was surmised beyond regulation time.

Last year, the Spartans lost in a shootout to Okanagan College in what amounts to the quarter-final game and this year they lost to Victoria in overtime at the same stage of the BCIHL playoff tournament.

After losing 9-3 to the very same Victoria Vikes two days prior, it was a marked improvement for the Spartans and a quality effort overall but, as recent history has shown, once again the Spartans couldn’t break into the top three in B.C.

But for the Spartans lone graduating senior, Benton Nickel, there was more to this year’s result than just another fourth place finish.

“Sure we didn’t move up in the standings but we’re keeping pace with a league that is continuing to get better each year,” Nickel said. “Dwayne [Lowdermilk, Spartans head coach] has done a good job of bringing in players and we’re probably the hardest working team in the league.”

Trinity Western, having changed from Titans to Spartans, started the season with a vastly different group than last year’s team and early on their struggles were more a matter of lacking chemistry than anything else.

“It took us about half the year to gel and get to know one another,” Nickel said. “I think it hindered us in the first half but in the second half we worked a lot better as a team.”

After winning the home opener 5-4 over Fraser Valley, the Spartans lost their next four games – two to Okanagan and two to Simon Fraser – and were outscored 15-5 in the process.

But then a trip to Fraser Valley in late-October seemed to get things going in the right direction. The Spartans beat the Cascades 3-2 and then went on to post a 4-2-1 record over their next seven games, with the only two losses being a 5-4 road defeat against Thompson Rivers and a 4-2 home loss to Victoria.

That took Trinity Western into mid-January but, unfortunately for the Spartans, the mid-January to mid-February portion of the schedule was a gauntlet against the best of the BCIHL.

Once again, the Spartans found themselves on a four-game losing streak as they dropped two games to TRU and one each to Okanagan and SFU. This time they were outscored 23-10.

But in what was a wildly inconsistent year, just when it seemed the Spartans were slip-sliding towards the end of the year, Trinity Western played arguably its best game of the year. The Spartans shutout eventual BCIHL champion SFU 3-0 at the Langley Events Centre, which marked the first time a team had goose-egged the Clan in more than four years.

From there, they beat Okanagan the next afternoon and then the following weekend beat Victoria 4-2 on the road. But, as if the team hadn’t seen enough roller coaster rides this season, the Spartans lost 10-5 the next day to Victoria and then finished the year by losing 4-2 to the league’s second worst team in Selkirk and then tying those same Saints 2-2 one night later.

And it went from bad to worse in the first game of the playoffs.  

The Spartans lost 9-3 against Victoria in their opening game and were forced to play a do-or-die match with Okanagan. And despite being outshot 41-30, the Spartans pulled out a 4-3 win and moved within two wins of the league final.

In their way though was a rematch with Victoria. But this time, playing a physical style, the Spartans hung tight with the Vikes through 60 minutes.  Despite the Spartans getting outshot 35-19 through three periods, goalie Tim Zwiers kept the Spartans within an overtime goal of the win. But unfortunately for Trinity Western, ultimately it was Victoria scoring in the extra session as the Spartans lost 3-2 saw their season come to an end.

The Spartans averaged 2.90 goals for per game in the regular season and 3.50 goals against per game. They had the second best penalty kill in the league at 87.5 per cent and were fifth in the league on the power play, working at 13.97 per cent.

The Spartans were led by Robert Vos offensively as he had 12 goals and 11 points while Brandon Long was second on the team in points with three goals and 16 assists.

In net, goalie John-Paul Chapman was named the BCIHL goalie of the year and was a First Team All-Star as he had a 3.11 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in 18 games.

A LOOK AHEAD…

Trinity Western will enter its second season under the Spartans moniker in 2011-12 and will look to build upon what was a season of huge growth and development in 2010-11.

After the Spartans saw a whole slew of new players join the team last year, this upcoming year a fairly similar core group of players will be returning.

The key loss this year is captain Benton Nickel who will be sorely missed in a number of capacities, notably his leadership abilities. Nickel was a rock on the back end and a key cog for the Spartans both on and off the ice.

But by only losing one player and with the likely return of key forwards Nathan Wiebe and Ian Spencer – both of whom missed the latter part of the season and the playoffs with injuries – Spartans fans should be optimistic about their team’s chances next year.

It’s expected the goalie tandem of Chapman and Tim Zwiers will return and will once again be one of the best one-two combos in the league. And when you have goaltending like the Spartans have, they should be in every game.

Last Updated: 2011-04-07
Author: Mark Janzen