BCIHL Mid Season Report on VIU Hockey

January 14th, 2018

 

Midseason Report: VIU fitting right in halfway through inaugural season
By BCIHL media

A million questions awaited Vancouver Island University on the eve of their inaugural B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League season. The most pressing one was "will these guys be an good?", which was a fair ask considering the Mariners are the first team since 2009 to be built from scratch over the course of a single offseason.

For the most part, VIU has exceeded any reasonable expectations for where they would sit at the midway point of their first year in the BCIHL. Their record, which currently sits at 6-6-0-0, puts them in a third-place tie with last year's regular season top dogs (SFU) and seven points clear of the league's reigning playoff champions (UVic).

How surprising is it that the Mariners hit the ground running in October and sit in a playoff spot halfway through the year?

Based on their summer recruiting haul it probably shouldn't be much of a shock. VIU head coach Steve Paul brought in a handful of experienced college players, including a foursome from Selkirk College in Tyler Kerner, Alex Milligan, Garrett Halls and Jordan Rauser. Kerner was the Saints captain last season and along with Milligan won back-to-back league championships with the Castlegar squad in 2015/2016.

VIU also attracted a number of island locals who had been studying and competing out of province. That group includes former VIJHL standouts Gage Colpron, who was an 80-point scorer as a 20-year old in Campbell River, and Spencer Loverock, who was named the league's Top Defenceman that same season. Colpron had played a year in the ACAC with Augustana while Loverock returned home from an NCAA Division III stint with Concordia University.

With those veterans on board, the Mariners added an impressive list of Junior A veterans including Nanaimo products Ryan Coghlan, Garrett Dunlop and Curtis McCarrick. Put it all together and on paper, VIU had built a roster that could be expected to compete right off the bat.

And compete they did. After dropping their league opener to Trinity Western on October 7th, the Mariners rebounded to spoil the Spartans' home opener a week later by a 2-1 score. They rang off a three-game winning streak in November that was capped by a 4-1 road win over SFU and closed out the semester with their most impressive result yet, a 6-4 home ice win over first place Selkirk College.

Colpron and Dunlop have been the Mariners' top offensive performers to date, but they've had lots of help. Junior A vet Josh Cook has played a key role alongside Dunlop, while Campbell River Storm alums Kobe Oishi and Michael Olson-Eyre have been impact players as rookies,

Just as important to VIU's offensive success has been their defence corps, which has already chipped in 11 goals. Coghlan has maintained a near point-a-game pace while Turner Popoff, Loverock, Halls, Rauser and Keegan Kessler have each scored twice.

One question mark heading into January will be in goal following the midseason departure of starter Carson Schammerhorn. The 20-year old had picked up five of the team's six wins and played all but three of his team's games during the fall semester.

Stepping into the spotlight will be fellow rookie Brett Clark, who is 1-2-0-0 in three starts with a 6.47 goals-against average and .839 save percentage. The good news is that Clark brings an impressive junior resume that includes a BC Junior B championship with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks along with stints in BCHL and SJHL.

Heading in to January the Mariners have a very real chance of wrestling third place away from SFU, with the teams facing off twice to open the new semester. At the same time, their primary focus will likely be to keep space between themselves and UVic or EWU for fourth. The Vikes and Eagles will have plenty of chances to close that gap with a total of seven head-to-head matchups against VIU remaining.

MIDSEASON AT A GLANCE - VIU

Record: 6-6-0-0 (T-3rd place)
Goals For: 43 (3rd)
Goals Against: 56 (5th)
Power Play: 14.06% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 78.38% (5th)

Goals Leader: Garrett Dunlop/Gage Colpron (7)
Assists Leader: Garrett Dunlop (8)
Points Leader: Garrett Dunlop (15)
PIM Leader: Alex Hanson (36)