Vernon’s Nathan Browne helped the Selkirk Saints win a college hockey crown.

Vernon’s Nathan Browne helped the Selkirk Saints win a college hockey crown.

Browne boosts hockey Saints

Castlegar’s Selkirk College Saints took a fourth straight B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League title.

Bob Hall

For The Morning Star

Castlegar’s Selkirk College Saints took a fourth straight B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League title with a sweep of Langley’s Trinity Western University Spartans.

The Saints took the best-of-three final, winning 5-1 in Game 1 and clinching the championship with a 2-1 win in front of a packed house of more than 800 fans at the Castlegar and District Recreation Complex.

“It’s a pretty special feeling to win in front of a crowd like this,” said Saints’ forward Ryan Edwards who scored the game winning goal midway through the third period.

Vernon’s Nathan Browne is a freshman defenceman for the Saints.

Midway through the final period, the Saints’ scoring line of Edwards, former Vernon Viper Dallas Calvin and Ryon Sookro came through when it mattered most. Calvin fed Sookro, who got a pass off to Edwards and the team’s leading scorer in the post-season buried the opportunity.

“That has to be right up there as far as goals,” said Edwards, who has notched plenty in his career. “It’s a good feeling to score a goal like that in a game like this.”

The Saints set up Saturday’s championship victory with a dominant 5-1 win in the series opener on Friday night. Edwards had four assists, Calvin notched a pair of goals with Ashton McLeod, Sookro and Vlanich provided the rest of the offence.

The Saints were led offensively in the playoffs by four players who grew up playing minor hockey in the West Kootenay: Edwards, Calvin, Jamie Vlanich and Sookro

“For both the local players and the out of town guys, we all feel the community support,” Calvin said after Saturday’s win. “It’s great to win a championship with a dressing room of guys who come from all different backgrounds.”

Brent Heaven took over as the Saints’ head coach this past summer. He said it took a group effort to make more hockey history at the Castlegar arena.

“We had some ups and downs this year, but overall from start to finish I think we showed people that we deserved the championship this year,” said Heaven.

“It’s a long season and we accomplished what we set out to do. I couldn’t be prouder of the boys and obviously the staff that helped make it happen. This doesn’t happen without everybody working together.

“It’s a great accomplishment. Four in a row doesn’t happen very often and we are very honoured to be part of an exclusive group. We’re going to enjoy this and then get ready for a fifth.”

More than 200 students, college staff and community supporters attended a celebration rally at the school that provided an opportunity for the players to bring the league trophy to the place it has resided for an extended period of time.

“I didn’t expect this support when I arrived, it’s been awesome,” said Browne, who played junior hockey in Ontario, in the BCHL and in Campbell River where he helped the Storm win the Vancouver Island Junior B League Championship.

He was also with the North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior League which made the league final in 2013.

Browne, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, joined the Saints because of the team’s tradition.

“They have established themselves as a winning program and that is something I value and want to contribute to,” said Browne at the time of his signing.

Browne was the top-scoring defenceman on the Saints in the regular season. He appeared in 21 games, scoring three times and adding 12 assists for 15 points.

Calvin was the team’s leading scorer, playing in 23 games with 20 goals and 38 points. He was second in league scoring and was the BCIHL rookie of the year.

There was one other North Okanagan connection to the Saints.

Steven Pantazopoulos, who had his jersey retired by the Knights after several years of service, played in 23 games for the Saints, scoring three times and adding two assists.

The Kelowna native, whose Saints career ended with the win over TWU, suffered a nasty cut over his eye in the league semifinal, but appeared in the championship series.

Selkirk College finished first in the five-team BCIHL with a record of 17-4-0-3 for 37 points, four ahead of Burnaby’s Simon Fraser Clan.

The Spartans were third followed by the Univesity of Victoria and Eastern Washington University.

The Saints needed a third-and-deciding game in their semifinal series against Victoria to advance to the championship. Selkirk College posted a 3-1 decision in the clincher, and took the opener 4-3 before Victoria – who finished 14 points behind Selkirk in the regular season – forced a deciding game with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 2.