Over the weekend, SFU went on its annual preseason tour of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I opponents. These teams are at a level significantly higher than SFU, and although SFU lost both games, head coach Mark Coletta liked what he saw from his team.
“We look for compete level,” said Coletta on what he was looking for from his team. “Who’s focused and the mental part of the game is very important when you play those guys. [However], the part of the game we were really focused on was their feet. Who’s moving, who’s not moving, [because] you definitely can’t watch against those teams, you’ll get punished pretty quick.”
The first game on the trip was against Alaska Anchorage. Although the score was only 1–0 after the first period, the Seawolves exploded for three in the second and another two in the third to make the final score 6–1. However, the game was marked by a number of penalties taken by SFU.
“They call things a lot tighter down there,” said Coletta on the number of penalties. “The stick infractions are called every time, whether it’s a hook of the hand or a little cross check on the pants. Anytime the stick comes parallel up on the ice they’re going to call it.
“We have to figure that part out, [and] I think we did a good job of Sunday to make sure our sticks were on the ice, and if you’re going to interfere with anybody, your stick is going to be on the ice in a stick-to-puck situation.”
Next up was Alaska Fairbanks on Sunday night. This time SFU played to a 2–0 defeat; still a loss, but considering what happened the previous night, a step in the right direction.
“I think maybe we were a little more aggressive on the forecheck and made sure we were in the right spots to crash down, whether it was with our defencemen or our high guy,” remarked Coletta. “We did a very good job of that I thought. We were unfortunate to get a bad bounce for the 1–0 goal, and the 2–0 Adam Callegari had a chance to make it 1–1, and they went back down and scored. I think we were good for the tie, maybe even the win that game.”
These games take on a more significant meaning when you consider the changes that could potentially be happening to SFU hockey in the future. In April, SFU Athletics announced they were looking into the feasibility of having a Division I hockey program. If it were to happen, both Alaska teams would likely be in the same conference as SFU.
“I don’t think it’s different than any other year. [. . .] It’s a chance to play a Division I program that’s got all the bells and whistles,” said Coletta. “We’re just a team of meat and potatoes and we’re going to go out there and bust our you-know-whats to win a hockey game. There’s no difference on how we approach things.”
SFU is on the road on back-to-back nights, first playing Eastern Washington University and then four-time defending champions Selkirk College.
“Eastern Washington will be good,” said Coletta. “They’ve recruited a bunch of guys and I think they’re going to be better than they were last year and they will be looking to make the playoffs.
“Selkirk are the defending champs. [. . .] They play a gritty style, especially up in their barn. They’re a rugged bunch of guys who are in your face all the time. That style of play has been effective for them obviously for the last four years. We expect them to be the leaders of our league, and to be the best you have to beat the best. Right now they’re sitting on top in my opinion.”