In their first home game of the 2015-2016 British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League season last Friday night, the Vikes lost 5-2 to the Selkirk College Saints.
The Vikes were the victims of sloppy possession in their own zone as well as an incredible performance from visiting goaltender James Prigione, who saved 33 shots out of the 35 he faced. The Vikes now sit fourth in the five-team league, with the Saints in first.
Despite a packed rink thanks to a Vikes Nation promotion, the fans could not inspire their team to victory. After the loss, the Vikes are now 1-2-0.
It took only five minutes for the 519 fans to see their first goal, though for the majority of the crowd in attendance it wasn’t a welcome one. The Vikes had the puck behind their own net, but after some aggressive forechecking from the visiting Saints, the puck was coughed up for Selkirk forward Marcel Fuchs to force the puck past Vikes goaltender Zack Wear at his near post.
Aggressiveness in the Vikes zone was clearly the gameplan for Selkirk College, and it worked well for them. The Vikes were able to break out on occasion, however Saints goaltender Prigione was unbeatable for the first two periods, stopping several good chances for UVic including a 4-on-1 opportunity in the first period.
After twenty minutes the score was 1-0, with the Vikes unable to make the most of a powerplay late in the period. The Vikes’ wastefulness would be a theme throughout the game, with UVic going an astounding 0 for 7 against an impressive Selkirk penalty kill.
The Vikes were made to pay for their inability to equalize in the second period, as Selkirk extended their advantage. Selkirk won a faceoff in the Vikes’ zone and a quick shot fooled goaltender Wear. Just 90 seconds later Selkirk made it three, with Saints forward Dallas Calvin scoring on the powerplay.
The hosts went into the locker room at the second intermission with things looking dire, though they came out hoping for a response. They found it through forward Riley Hunt, who finally got the better of Prigione after some lovely passing play from UVic on a breakaway. The crowd cheered for the first time in a while, and the Vikes had more to celebrate when Luciano Somerville found the back of the net for his second goal of the season just 62 seconds later.
Unfortunately for the home team, 3-2 was the closest they came to leaving the arena with their second win of the season. With five minutes to go in the third period, Selkirk forward Ryan Sookro (who had served 12 penalty minutes earlier in the game for an illegal hit to the head) restored the Saints’ lead to two. Then, with the Vikes on the penalty kill, an attempted clearance from the UVic defense in their own zone bounced off a Vikes player. The puck fell to Selkirk’s Alex Milligan, who, alone in front of the net, finished off the scoring with a shot high to Wear’s blocker side.
While disappointed with the result, Vikes veteran Shawn Mueller talked about how more familiarity with the rink will lead to better things for UVic.
“It’s a small rink,” said Mueller. “We need to learn how to play in this arena, and one of the key things to that is moving the puck quickly. We’ve got one game in here, so now it’s under our belts, we should be used to it.”
The Vikes struggled to string passes together, and giveaways in key areas led to several goals for Selkirk. UVic’s first goal, however, was the direct result of good passing play, which will be encouraging for the upcoming season.
Mueller also spoke of the crowd as being a positive force for the players.
“We love when people come out to watch,” said Mueller. “It’s just a good energy in the arena. It helps us try and get the job done. Unfortunately we couldn’t do that today, but we’ll hopefully do that tomorrow and from now on.”
The Vikes play their next game on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. against the Trinity Western University Spartans at the Langley Events Centre.