WolfPack eliminated from BCIHL playoffs

Owen Munro, Contributor Ω

Curtis Tonello's season may be done but he and a number of the WolfPack's core players will return for the 2013-14 season. - PHOTO BY ANDREW SNUCINS

Curtis Tonello’s season may be done but he and a number of the WolfPack’s core players will return for the 2013-14 season. – PHOTO BY ANDREW SNUCINS

Losing to the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Clan has been a theme all year for the TRU WolfPack men’s hockey team. Time and time again victory against the Clan has eluded their grasps and the 5-2 loss at the Memorial Arena on March 9 was no different. It was the second loss in as many nights and ended the 2012-13 BCIHL playoffs for TRU.

The WolfPack struggled all year with the Clan, several times coming out of the gates slow, surrendering two and three-goal leads before finding their legs. The same slow start hurt the WolfPack Saturday and TRU found themselves down 2-0 after highlight-reel goals by SFU’s Christopher Hoe and Brenden Silvester.

Hoe struck first on a beautiful stretch pass from Ben Van Lare and made no mistake going top shelf on TRU goaltender Shane Mainprize. Four minutes later, Van Lare set up a tic-tac-toe goal, dishing it to Joey Pavone who sent cross ice to Silvester who made no mistake. Bruin McDonald made it 3-0 on a backhand in a scramble in front of the net before the first frame ended.

The goals were indicative of SFU’s first period dominance, WolfPack head coach Don Schulz admitted TRU was behind the 8-ball early on.

“I kept stressing the fact that we had to win more one-on-one battles and play better in confined spaces,” coach Schulz said. “We had to concentrate on executing our systems and once we did that we started winning some one-on-one battles.

“Their defensive core is an experienced group and if you give them time and space they’re going to move the puck on you.”

The tides began to turn in the second period as TRU matched SFU’s intensity and physicality. Despite numerous scoring chances, the WolfPack couldn’t find the back of the net and SFU potted two more. Alessio Tomassetti had arguably the best chance of the period on a short breakaway but his deke was turned aside by SFU goalie Evan Kurylo.

“It’s tough because you only get a few chances here and there. They’re not a bad defensive team at all,” captain Curtis Tonello said post-game. “You want to bury, it doesn’t always happen. It sucks, but you have to keep pushing.”

Looking to find a spark in the third period, TRU built off the strong goaltending of Mainprize, who made 30 saves. Duncan Schulz walked in on a power play and deked Kurylo to make the score 5-1. However it seemed like every time the WolfPack went on the offensive, SFU stayed strong defensively and kept things relatively easy for Kurylo.

In the waning minutes of the game the WolfPack finally cashed in on a lucky bounce when Tyler Jackson received a pass from Colten DeFrias and potted it glove side to make it 5-2. Unfortunately it was too little too late, the season coming to an abrupt end after a questionable holding call on Duncan Schulz allowed the Clan to effectively run the clock out.

Despite an early playoff exit, head coach Don Schulz was pleased with his team's efforts on the season. - PHOTO BY ANDREW SNUCINS

Despite an early playoff exit, head coach Don Schulz was pleased with his team’s efforts on the season. – PHOTO BY ANDREW SNUCINS

Despite the loss, coach Schulz remained positive after the game and touched on the fact that the WolfPack competed for a full 60 minutes night in and night out. He commended the team’s courage and character, adamant the loss will help them next season and beyond.

“It’s not just the hockey part. We try to prepare these guys for life after hockey and their professional lives,” coach Schulz added. “I’d like to think we’ve been a big part of that.”

The WolfPack program has been a fairly successful one throughout recent years and this year was no different. One of the benefits heading into next season will be familiarity as coach Schulz said that TRU will return most of its core and has plans to recruit more talent. Many times this year the WolfPack were stuck playing with just four or five defencemen on the back end and rarely rolled four lines.

Their success in finding contributing rookies like Jake Howardson, Jarrett Martin and Kevin Lourens and a solid core of players such as Colten DeFrias, Tyler Jackson and Anthony Delong gives TRU an extremely bright outlook for the future. As the calibre of the BCIHL and collegiate hockey continues to grow, so too will the WolfPack as a first-class hockey program.