LANGLEY, British Columbia –
The goal for the Trinity Western men’s hockey team this year is to finally get over the fourth place hump.

When the season ended last year with an overtime loss to the Okanagan Coyotes, it marked the fifth straight year Trinity Western finished the BCIHL playoffs in fourth place. This year, while the playoffs are still many months away and the first regular season game hasn’t even been played, they hope to finally buck that trend and move up the standings.

With the group Spartans coach Dwayne Lowdermilk has brought together this season, one that has 10 new faces in the mix, there’s no reason to believe Trinity Western can’t start making a push into the upper echelon of the BCIHL.

“We’ve got guys who can really put the puck in the net this year and guys who will be very strong defensively,” Lowdermilk said. “We should be able to be strong at both ends of the rink this year whereas last year I think we were strong in our own end but not so good at getting the puck in the net.

“The guys are pulling together and coming together as a team. That’s the exciting part. Last year we had a few different groups but this year they’re all excited to go places and do things in the community as a group and be involved with other Spartans teams and we just didn’t have that last year.”

Newly named captain Brad Bakken, who once patrolled the blue line for the Langley Chiefs, will lead the Spartans charge as he joins Trinity Western after an impressive junior and college career.

“To succeed, we’re going to have to come together even more as a team and we’re going to have to be patient,” Bakken said. “We can’t get down on each other when things don’t go our way. If we all click and we’re all on the same page, things will go really well.”

Starting up front, the Spartans have dramatically increased their scoring options with the new recruits like Kye Benjaminsen, Tristano Falbo and Aaron Riemersma added to the mix along with Sam Gemmell, who will be with Trinity Western full-time this year after joining the Spartans in the second half of last year.

While Trinity Western did lose last year’s scoring leader Robert Vos, the veteran forwards who are still around, in players like Brandon Long, Trevor Beaupre, Trevor Edwards, Ian Spencer, Matthew Chaput and, when he’s healthy, Nathan Wiebe, are all a year older and should be able to build on their contributions from last season.

Last year the Spartans only scored 2.92 goals per game, which was fifth in the BCIHL, and if the Spartans are to have success this season, they will have to bury the biscuit on a much more frequent basis.

On the blue line, Trinity Western will be even bigger and more physical than last year. The Spartans will lose captain and emotional leader Benton Nickel but he’s the only player who graduated from what was a solid defensive core.

Returning will be Brendan Elenko, Aaron Heggie, Scott Holmes and Benson Wu. Add to that Bakken, Chris Stew, Dylan Mooney and sometimes forward, sometimes defenceman Jordan Magnuson and the Spartans are certainly an improved and even more physical defensive team.

The only aspect of the Spartans squad that hasn’t changed is between the pipes. Returning from last year in goal is BCIHL all-star John-Paul Chapman and back-up netminder Tm Zwiers. Last year, Chapman had a .905 save percentage and a 3.11 goals against average and will need to continue to play at a high level each game to give the Spartans a consistent chance to earn two points on a nightly basis.

Zwiers is a more than capable back-up and will push Chapman for playing time. Zwiers played in two games in the playoffs, winning one and losing the other, and posted a .922 save percentage.  

Compared to last year, the Spartans are a much improved team, but then again you can bet the rest of the league has also taken strides forward. So this year, expect a physical Spartans bunch and one that, if the team comes together in the fashion is has the potential to, could very well be in the heavy weight category come playoff time.

The Spartans open the regular season Saturday, Oct. 8 against the Simon Fraser Clan, who won the BCIHL championship last season. Game time is 7:00 p.m. at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.

Trinity Western’s home-opener is Saturday, Oct. 15 when they host Thompson Rivers at 1:00 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.


Last Updated: 2011-10-07
Author: Mark Janzen