After such a physical 55 minutes, it was fitting that a display of pure skill made the difference in a matchup between the University of Victoria and Eastern Washington University.
Carsen Willians’ game winner at 15:09 in the third period was definitely one to remember. After some aggressive fore-checking from UVic kept the puck in the Eagles zone, Willians took the puck from behind the net, skated past a sprawling defender, and fired his shot under the glove of goaltender Austin Brihn.
It was a rare mistake from Brihn, who stopped 33 of 37 shots that night, but it was a costly one, as UVic improved their record to 7-5-3. The Vikes have leapfrogged both Selkirk College and Simon Fraser University to sit second in the BCIHL, despite playing more games than the aforementioned teams.
Despite their eventual domination in the shots category, UVic got off to the worst possible start when they found themselves down 2-0 just three minutes into the first period.
Rookie defenceman Josh Rolfe scored the first goal for the visitors at 1:57, and centre Alec Burks scored the second goal of the game just 57 seconds later.
The game was a tense and physical affair and it came to a head with just a minute left in the first period. With Shawn Mueller, UVic’s first goal scorer, on the puck in the middle of the ice, EWU captain Chase Wharton came in for a dangerous hit which knocked the Vikes forward to the ice with a bloody nose. The hit was deemed dangerous enough to warrant a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Although UVic were unable to convert on the subsequent power-play, the hit marked a turning point in the game. EWU struggled to dominate their own zone without captain Wharton, and the comeback was on for the Vikes. UVic only needed one goal to tie the game after Mueller had cut the lead to one late in the first period, and that goal eventually came—Cole Conway tied the game at two with just 13 seconds left.
The goal marked the end of EWU’s spirited resistance, and UVic finished the game having had 16 shots to EWU’s five in the third period alone. It could have been a blowout for UVic, but netminder Brihn kept the game close. UVic went ahead through top scorer Adam Klein on a power-play goal, but when EWU forward Paxton Bell beat the UVic goalie low on the glove side it looked like the game may be heading for a nervous finish.
Cue Carsen Willians provided the magic needed to grab his third goal of the season and UVic’s seventh win.
“We had some adversity to start,” said assistant coach Stephen Foster, “but it was a little bit of Christmas legs—we haven’t played since early December.”
The rustiness didn’t stop the Vikes, however, and Foster was quick to compliment the special teams. It was an impressive showing from both the penalty kill—killing 6 of 7 penalties—and the powerplay scoring twice.
“We didn’t execute on a big five-minute power play that we could’ve had one or two on but special teams was a big factor today, both ways. [There were] lots of penalties, but our kill was good.”
The next home games for Vikes hockey are Feb. 6–7, against Trinity Western University.