Langley-based Spartans off to sizzling start

The Trinity Western University hockey team heads into its Christmas break with a record nine wins to start its B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey season.

On Friday, PJ Buys scored once and assisted on three others in leading TWU to a  5-2 win over Eastern Washington at the Langley Events Centre.

It was Buys’ second consecutive four-point night.

Playing in their final game before the Christmas break, the Spartans (9-2-0-2) came out with an offensive flurry, scoring three goals in the first period and then holding on for the three-goal victory.

“I think our guys came out and probably played one of the best 20 minutes of the season,” Spartans coach Barret Kropf said. “In the second 20, we started doing things that aren’t part of our DNA in terms of trying to do too many fancy plays and not being the first to the puck. So we had to hit the reset button and come out with a stronger effort in the third. We had 40 minutes that were great and 20 minutes that we can’t let happen again.”

The win caps off the first place Spartans most dominant fall semester in program history, including a record nine wins before the break.

Last year, TWU won what was a team record five games before Christmas.

For the Eagles, the loss drops them to 4-9-0-0 and they have now lost three in a row to the Spartans.

“It’s nice to go into the break with that kind of a record but we know having a month off for Christmas is going to force all of us across the league to start over and go at it again in the second half,” Kropf said. “You don’t win championships in November or December. We have a lot of work yet to do. I’m thrilled with what we’ve accomplished, but we’re not content.”

Offensively for the Spartans, Micah Cockrill and Cody Fidgett each had a goal and an assist while JP Villeneuve collected two assists. Florian

Niedermaier and Brett Wur rounded out the scoring with one goal each. Buys four-point night gives him six goals and 14 assists on the season.

Nick Redding and Ricky Doubrava each scored for EWU while Paxton Bell and Beau Walker assisted on both goals.

In what was a feisty night, especially in the latter half, the teams combined for 168 penalty minutes with EWU being assessed 111 minutes and TWU being called for 57 minutes.

Spartans goalie Aaron Oakley earned his first win with TWU after a 38-save performance while the Eagles Tyler O’Donnell made 33 saves in a losing effort.

After being forced to kill off an early five-on-three power play, the Spartans got on the board first when Cockrill scored his first of the season on the power play.

The TWU blueliner took a feed from Buys in the slot and buried it into a gaping net. Mattias Schmitt also nabbed a helper on the play.

After killing off another penalty, the Spartans Niedermaier took a pass from Buys and whipped a shot from the top of the circle and found the back of the net at 11:20 of the opening frame for his fourth of the campaign.

Already with two assists, Buys picked up his third point of the period when he scored to make it 3-0 with just under four minutes to play. It was

TWU’s top line all getting in on the goal as Fidgett and Villeneuve each earned assists.

The Eagles got in penalty trouble early in the second period but TWU was unable to capitalize and instead, it was EWU scoring on its first man-advantage of the middle frame. With 4:02 left in the period, Redding got the Eagles on the board.

Then just 36 seconds later, Doubrava tallied his first of the season to make it a one-goal game at 3-2.

However, EWU took a late penalty and the Spartans vaunted power play, which has been working at better than 32 per cent, made it pay. Fidgett found the back of the net off a scramble with nine seconds left, scoring on a shot from the middle of the right circle and sending TWU into the dressing room up 4-2. Villeneuve and Buys earned assists.

In the third period, Wur scored less than three minutes in to salt away the win. Grange Gordon and Cockrill added helpers.

Late in the third period, the game, which had been heating up throughout much of the second and third periods, boiled over and 14 penalties were called in the final 4:02.

All told, EWU was assessed five game misconducts over the final two periods while TWU’s Josiah Cockrill was the only Spartans player given a game misconduct. TWU’s Wur and Jamie Russell were both given misconducts with less than 10 minutes to play and were forced to leave the game early.

The Spartans are now off until 2015. They will open on the road the second half of their schedule against Selkirk Jan. 9-10. TWU is back at home Jan. 15 when it hosts Simon Fraser at 7 p.m.

EWU will complete its fall semester Saturday when it plays Simon Fraser at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre.

 

FINAL BUZZER: Defenceman Cole Hergott dressed for his first game with the Spartans. Coming off a shootout loss to SFU, the Spartans bounced back with a win and go into the break having not lost back-to-back BCIHL games all year.

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