SEASON PREVIEW: SPARTANS AIM TO IMPROVE WITH BOLSTERED LINEUP

MEN’S HOCKEY
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2014
SEASON PREVIEW

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEASON PREVIEW: SPARTANS AIM TO IMPROVE WITH BOLSTERED LINEUP
 
LANGLEY, British Columbia – After an historic season last year in which the Trinity Western men’s hockey team earned a spot in the BCIHL championship series for the first time ever, the Spartans enter the 2014-15 campaign aiming to take the next step and, with a few key additions, are gearing up for a run at the league title.

The Spartans open their regular season this weekend when they travel to Victoria to play the Vikes Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

Both games can be seen live at http://bcihl.fasthockey.com/home/.

The Spartans went 1-2 in the preseason, which included a win over Simon Fraser but losses to Selkirk and Eastern Washington.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

Key Returnees: Mattias Schmitt F, Cody Stephenson F, JP Villeneuve F, Jake Harcoff D, Blair Murphy D, Silas Matthys G
Key Additions: Cody Fidgett F, Florian Niedermaier F, Ryan Bakken D, Karsten Seidel D, Jacob Mills D
Key Departures: Trevor Beaupre F, Josh Stephenson F, Brad Bakken D, Harry Fredeman G
Preseason Record: 1-2
2013-14 Regular Season Record: 10-13-0-1
2013 Regular Season Standings: 3rd
2013 Playoff Record: 2-3
2013 Playoff Result: 2nd
Last BCIHL Championship: N/A
 
In his first season behind the Spartans bench, coach Barret Kropf took the team to heights previously unseen as TWU finished third in the regular season standings before upsetting Simon Fraser in the playoffs to advance to the BCIHL championship series. However, in the final, TWU was swept by the now two-time defending champion Selkirk Saints, losing both games, and, therefore, was forced to settle for silver.

This year, the goal is to take that next step forward.

While the loss of captain Brad Bakken (Langley), who stepped away to focus on his studies, will be felt on the blue line, the Spartans have largely returned last year’s core group and, with a few key signings, look to be a much improved team entering the 2014-15 campaign.

“We want to continue in the mindset of what we started last year and that’s the idea of continual improvement every day,” Kropf said. “We are demanding excellence on and off the ice. We are continually shaping who we are as a program. I’m excited to have some new bodies on the roster, which will keep players on their toes and keep guys motivated on and off the ice.

“We are still focused on the ‘win all day, every day’ concept. This year, more than ever, we’re asking our guys to have another level of maturity. I think we’re finding ways to help them in that process while keeping in mind that we’re also here to help them on their faith adventure.”

FORWARDS

Up front, the addition of Cody Fidgett (Richmond, B.C.) will instantly add consistent offence to the Spartans lineup. Fidgett, who tallied a hat-trick against SFU in his Spartans preseason debut, comes to TWU after two years with Selkirk, where he racked up 32 goals and 28 assists in 43 games. Last year, he tied for the league lead in goal-scoring, with 22, and will be expected to help fill the net for the Spartans.

Look for Fidgett to form a dynamic duo alongside fellow sniper JP Villeneuve (Georgetown, Ont.), who is back for a second season with TWU after scoring 21 goals last year and being named the BCIHL’s co-MVP and Rookie of the Year.

The addition of Florian Niedermaier (Davos, Switzlerand), who played with Davos U20 last year, and PJ Buys (Newmarket, Ont.) will also help boost a TWU offence that averaged just 2.83 goals per game last year. Returning forwards like Cody Stephenson (Aldergrove, B.C.), Mattias Schmitt (Surrey, B.C.), Jamey Kreller (Winfield, B.C.) and Jamie Russell (Surrey, B.C.) will also be expected to contribute as TWU looks to improve its offensive numbers.

The duo of Grange Gordon (Ladner, B.C.) and Brett Wur (St. Andrews, Man.) will play critical roles defensively and on the penalty kill while adding a few sheets of sandpaper to the TWU forward unit.

DEFENCEMEN

Defensively, Blair Murphy (Surrey, B.C.) returns to the back end after being named a BCIHL Second Team All-Star last year. Murphy will take over the captaincy this season and much will be expected from the ever-steady blueliner.

While Brad Bakken is no longer in the fold, younger brother Ryan has returned to Langley – he was once the captain of the BCHL-playing Rivermen – to join the Spartans and will be counted upon to log big minutes.

Bakken will join a defensive core that includes key returners Jake Harcoff (Surrey) and Micah Cockrill (Chilliwack, B.C.) as well as, amongst others, first-year blueliners Karsten Seidel (Delta, B.C.), Jacob Mills (Burnaby, B.C.) and Jason Abbott (Schomberg, Ont.).

GOALIES

In goal, Silas Matthys (Wollerau, Switzerland) is back and will be expected to carry the bulk of the netminding duties. Matthys joined the team last year and took over the starting role in the second half of the season and it was, in large part, his brick wall form that helped TWU to its late season and playoff success.

Last year, Matthys averaged more than 37 saves per game over his final 10 games of the season, including the Spartans five playoff contests. While TWU will surely be aiming to limit its shots against this year – the Spartans allowed 40.1 shots against per game over that 10 game span – Matthys will once again be relied upon to shoulder the majority of the goaltending load this year.

Newcomers Nic Clark (White Rock, B.C.) and Aaron Oakley (Richmond) will likely battle for back-up duties throughout the year.

COACHING

With Kropf now in his second year behind the bench, the expectations have been raised. After a successful season last year, the goals this year are, naturally, heightened. Entering this year, he will have a better idea of the competition TWU will face and, having seen Selkirk win the league title first hand, knows full well where his team needs to be if it is to compete for the championship. Kropf’s entire coaching staff is back and, outsiders and insiders alike, are expecting the “continual improvement” that he continually talks about.

INTANGIBLES

The mindset has been changed at TWU. A winning mentality is starting to take over. Signing Fidgett, who helped Selkirk win back-to-back league titles, will add a winning pedigree that the Spartans previously lacked. However, despite the excitement about their playoff finish, the Spartans still finished below the .500 mark in the regular season. There’s work to be done, but this year’s group now has a better idea of what it’ll take to win when it counts.

-TW-

Last Updated: 2014-09-24
Author: Mark Janzen

Upcoming

DateGameTime
Mh10-11SELKIRK*19:00:00
Mh10-17SIMON FRASER*19:00:00
Mh10-18@Simon Fraser*19:00:00
Mh10-24SELKIRK*19:00:00
Mh10-25VICTORIA*13:00:00
Mh10-31VICTORIA*19:00:00
Mh11-14SELKIRK*19:00:00
Mh11-21@Eastern Washington*19:00:00
Mh11-22@Eastern Washington*19:00:00
Mh11-29@Simon Fraser*19:00:00
Mh12-05EASTERN WASHINGTON*19:00:00
Mh01-09@Selkirk*19:00:00
Mh01-10@Selkirk*19:00:00
Mh01-16SIMON FRASER*19:00:00
Mh01-22SIMON FRASER*19:00:00
Mh01-23VICTORIA*19:00:00
Mh01-30EASTERN WASHINGTON*19:00:00
Mh02-06@Victoria19:30:00
Mh02-07@Victoria12:30:00
Mh02-14@Simon Fraser*19:00:00

Our Scores

DateGameRS
Mh10-05@Minnesota MankatoL12-1
Mh10-04@St. Cloud StateL8-0
Mh09-27@Victoria*L4-3
Mh09-26@Victoria*W9-3
Mh09-20Eastern Washington (Castlegar, B.C.)L5-2
Mh09-19@Selkirk (Trail, B.C.)L9-0
Mh09-12SIMON FRASERW4-3
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