In two road games, the UVic Vikes went from being dominated by the Trinity Western Spartans to outscoring Simon Fraser the following night. Seven days later, the Vikes hosted the current BCIHL standings leader: the Selkirk Saints. As the puck dropped, it was evident the Vikes had prepared for the offensively talented opponents. But would it be enough for a win?
Contrary to the well-attended UVic Vikes home opener at the Ian Stewart Complex, students must have been too busy with their Halloween festivities to catch their hockey team play the Saints on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. Eventually, some local hockey fans trickled-in, and by the second period, there was a notable crowd of spectators. Unfortunately, the first period was the climax of the game — for Vikes fans — as it was arguably the Vikes’ best hockey of the season.
Best Start Yet
As soon as the puck hit the ice, you could almost feel the intensity radiating from the rink. With Patrick Holland still out of the line-up due to school priorities, the UVic Vikes needed secondary scoring, and forward Liam Shaw again provided just that. The prickly second-year winger was all over the ice the entire game and was rewarded with an assist.
Shaw played strong in deep, especially in the first period: generating rebounds and making impressive cross-crease and behind-the-net passes. But moving the puck in the offensive zone has not been an issue with for the Vikes—their problems have traditionally come with gaining the offensive zone off the rush and generating shots.
All period, the Vikes out-skated the bigger and stronger Saints. The Vikes competed physically and did not allow any Saints to bully them. Shaw made sure of this by finishing all his checks and drawing the attention of the Saints’ checkers away from his line-mates — all of whom displayed excellent chemistry. Centered by Brandon Volpe, Shaw also skated with Victoria Royals forward Jack Palmer. Shaw retrieved the puck countless times and looked good setting up the boys all night.
The Vikes managed to match the Saints in shots throughout the period, and their penalty kill was solid all game. Up until the second half of the first, the play on ice was amazing. The sound of blades carving the ice, cold rink-side air, and a rhythmic hockey game made for a blissful atmosphere. That is,until the rhythm was broken by one of the notorious aspects of hockey: its unsportsmanlike culture.
Thirty-six penalty minutes were given in the first period, mostly towards the end of the period. Both teams ran each other’s bodies instead of primarily seeking the puck. Saints rookie forward Derek McPhail — who is second in team scoring behind the BCIHL player of the week Dallas Calvin — hit Volpe low, knocking him down. McPhail did not seem like he intended to take out Volpe’s knee, though. Regardless, a scrum ensued after the whistle and McPhail was called for a Slew Foot (a low check leading with the skate rather than the body) and ejected from the game.
“Well if I had known I’d be kicked out for a softy, I would have knocked him out!” screamed McPhail at the official walking towards the dressing room. Both penalty boxes soon filled up and the chirping continued.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . any day,” Grant Iles yelled at the UVic Vikes players who hollered right back.
A mix of stellar hockey and chirpiness — though perhaps a little much on the chirping side — makes for entertaining hockey, and the Vikes looked good overall at the end of the first period.
Physicality persisted in the second period. After the first whistle, one of the referees tackled Vikes defensemen Shane Kumar, restraining him from a Saint player. That incident ended the chirping as the Saints decided to strike not with their firsts, but with goals.
As the second period continued, the Vikes played well and out-skated the Saints, and their breakout also looked better. Yet, seven minutes into the period, Calvin scored on backup goalie Alec Dillion, starting after his solid performance against SFU. But his play was not as good as it was in his last game, and in a span of three minutes it was 0-3 Saints.
Three quick goals did not break the Vikes as they were only behind 13–16 in shots.They were, however, slowly losing their determination and the edge in the speed department. Basically, the boys were playing for pride the final minutes of the second as they were down 5–0 with the Saints outshooting them 24–15.
After a “bad period” — as coach Harry Schamhart put it — the Vikes did compete in the third by playing sound defense and aggressive offense. Unfortunately, a comeback against the league’s top team could not be completed (even with Michael Fredrick replacing Dillion in net). Kumar scored his first of the season, the Vikes got 12 shots in the third, but they still lost 6–1.
One positive and consistent aspect of the UVic Vikes play this season is their special teams. On Friday, the Vikes went five for five on the penalty kill and scored one on the powerplay. Their passing and break-out has also improved tremendously since game one.
Additional players that stood out in Friday’s loss include captain Henry Hart for his sound positioning; Kyle Bird for his creative play on the blueline; rookies Kenny Britton and Tyler Severson for their skating and energy; and Dylan Grant: the physical blueliner was moved up to the wing and because he is mobile and has a good shot, and he looked comfortable in his new role.