Selkirk College Saints forward Tyler Hartman gets a shot on Vancouver Island University Mariners goalie Brett Clark in the second period of Saturday night’s British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League semi-final at the Castlegar & District Recreation Centre. Though Hartman was denied on this opportunity, he scored the overtime winner that has propelled the Saints to the league championship series. (Selkirk College)

Selkirk College Saints book spot in BCIHL Championship series

Selkirk College Saints first-year forward Tyler Hartman scored 13 minutes into overtime.

CASTLEGAR — Selkirk College Saints first-year forward Tyler Hartman scored 13 minutes into overtime on Saturday night at the Castlegar & District Recreation Complex to eliminate the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners from the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) playoffs and claim a spot in the championship final series.

After a 5-3 Saints victory on Friday night to open the best-of-three semi-final, the Mariners battled hard in Game Two in an effort to stave off elimination. Trailing 3-2 late in the third period, Saints forward Logan Styler tied the score with 49 seconds remaining in regulation time which cued Hartman’s OT heroics.

“It’s a bit of blank… I saw the puck right there beside the crease and I just went for it,” Hartman said after the game when asked to describe his goal. “It went in and I’m very happy about that.”

VIU goaltender Brett Clark took the loss, but the former Trail Smoke Eaters puck-stopper was stellar throughout the game turning away 45 shots, including 12 in the overtime period. Both Clark and Hartman grew up in Grand Prairie, Alberta and have played together in their hometown and with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

“We had a lot of chances out there and Brett Clark is a very good goaltender, so it felt good to see that one finally go in,” said Hartman, who was the game’s first-star and had several opportunities denied by Clark throughout the game.

The Mariners came out with enthusiasm from the opening face-off on Saturday night, throwing 13 shots on Selkirk College starter Patrick Zubick in the opening 20 minutes. Kobe Oishi scored the first goal of the game on the power play midway through the opening frame. The Saints stormed back in the second period, starting with a nice goal by Jonas Horvath on the power play eight minutes in. Horvath’s hard work 10 minutes later led to Styler’s first goal of the game after Clark was caught out of position and a wide open net became available to the former Castlegar Rebels sniper who made no mistake to make it 2-1 for the Saints.

With time ticking away on their season, the Mariners pushed back hard in the third period. First, former Saints forward Alex Milligan stuffed a rebound past Zubick seven minutes into the period. With just under three minutes left in regulation time, Mariners forward Alex Hanson got the go-ahead goal when he secured a funny bounce off the boards.

With Zubick on the bench for the extra attacker, Styler’s second goal of the game sent the substantial crowd into a roar.

“We worked this hard all season to get to this point,” assistant captain Parker Wakaruk said about the mood on the Saints’ bench heading into overtime. “I think everyone in the dressing room knew we had enough in our tanks to get it done. This is why we put in all the extra effort throughout the season with dryland and working hard in practice. You put in those extra hours of work for situations like overtime.”

The Saints will now take on the Trinity Western University Spartans in the best-of-three BCIHL championship series which takes place this coming weekend (March 16 to 18) in the Lower Mainland.

The Spartans had the best regular season record, but have lost the last three out of four final series. The Langley-based team is seeking its first-ever BCIHL trophy. The Saints enter the final series as underdogs, having lost four of five games to the Spartans this past season.

Looking to reclaim the title after winning four in a row between 2013 and 2016, the Saints will look to big-game experience as an equalizer. The Saints have six players who have already won a BCIHL championship in 2016 — Dallas Calvin, Dane Feeney, Derek Georgopoulos, Nelson Hurry, Horvath and Brett Huber — along with a dressing room full of players who have claimed titles in other leagues, including OT hero Hartman who helped Beaver Valley to the KIJHL championship in 2017.

“There is a lot of leadership and experience in our dressing room, that’s huge,” says Zubick, who was instrumental in backstopping the Dryden Ice Dogs to a Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) championship in Ontario last season before arriving at Selkirk College. “We all know what it takes to win games like this and nobody is going to be crumbling under the pressure.”

Game One of the BCIHL championship final will go Thursday night at the George Preston Recreation Centre in Langley. You can arrange to watch the live webcast of all three games at hockeytv.com. Game Two will be played Friday and Game Three set for Saturday if necessary.

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