BCIHL preview on 2018-19 VIU Hockey

October 7th, 2018

Though they may have been outshined somewhat by their expansion hockey cousins down the road in Las Vegas, there was plenty to be proud of for Vancouver Island University in their inaugural B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League season.

The Mariners, who started completely from scratch in building a roster on the day their application was approved by the league in December 2016, blew away all reasonable expectations during their 2017/18 campaign. They finished with the league's third best regular season record on the strength of 17 wins and featured a number of standout performances from a rookie-heavy lineup.

Now the challenge for VIU's players and coaching staff is to take another step forward in Year 2, and they look primed to do just that.

"All of our leaders coming back are going to have a big impact and we expect them to take charge this season," says Mariners head coach Steve Paul. "The rookies we've brought in have each been impactful in their own way and we're expecting them to contribute greatly this season."

The squad has lost just five skaters from the roster that closed out their expansion season, and that number includes only two of their top-10 scorers in Curtis McCarrick and Turner Popoff. Leading scorer Gage Colpron returns, as does point-per-game forward Garrett Dunlop and a trio of nine-goal scorers in Kobe Oishi, Josh Cook and Michael Olson-Eyre.

The blueline will once again be bouyed by the steady presence of former Western Hockey League defender Ryan Coghlan, as well as three-year BCHL veteran Garrett Murray (formerly Halls) and a pair of Campbell River Storm alumni in Jordan Rauser and Darryl Senholt.

The Mariners' wealth of returning talent left staff with few holes to fill, but they appear to have found some excellent additions nonetheless. The star attraction is no doubt Dallas Calvin, who's the latest player to continue his education at VIU with a BCIHL championship already in hand from his time at Selkirk College. And Calvin isn't any ordinary pick-up; he's a three-time league all-star whose 1.7 points-per-game average ranks fourth all-time amongst skaters with more than 50 BCIHL games played. 

And on it goes, starting with former Powell River Kings captain Gavin Rauser. The two-way forward has joined his older brother at VIU on the heels of three BCHL campaigns and a 33-point year as a 20-year old with the reigning Island Division champions. 

Meanwhile, a pair of pick-ups from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Brett Witala and Ronnie Wilkie, combined for 180 points and finished second and third respectively in league scoring last season. Fellow KIJHL alum and college transfer Eric Buckley put up 70 points with the Kimberley Dynamiters in 2015/16 before netting 60 more in two seasons with the University of Jamestown in the ACHA. And blueliner Jake Calverley is back playing in his hometown after four VIJHL seasons and a year in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Battlefords Stars.

 

In goal, Brett Clark is back as the team's starter following an up-and-down season that saw him take the top job in January. After going 1-4-0 to open the year, he would win six of his last eight regular season starts before a first round playoff elimination to Selkirk College. He's been joined by former Summerland Steam starter Matt Huber, who suited up in 127 regular season and playoff contests over three KIJHL seasons.

"Overall, we have a great bunch of talented guys that are excited to be here," says Paul. "We haven't had a chance to be together long, but we have a lot of skilled players who are willing to work hard together."

The Mariners begin their quest for their first BCIHL title this weekend in Langley when they begin a two-game set against the defending league champions from Trinity Western University. Both Friday and Saturday contests are set for a 7:30 PM faceoff.

 

2017/18 BY THE NUMBERS:

 

Regular season record: 17-8-0-0, 34 points – 3rd
Post-season record: 0-2, eliminated in 1st Round by Selkirk
Goals Scored: 94 total, 3.76 per game – 3rd
Goals Allowed: 86 total, 3.44 per game – 4th
Power Play: 14 for 115; 12.17% – 5th
Penalty Kill: 102 for 127;  80.31% – 5th