LANGLEY, B.C. – Jarett Fontaine's (Humboldt, Sask.) game-winning goal with 7.1 seconds left in Game 1 of the BCIHL championship series lifted the Trinity Western men's hockey team to a 3-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Island Mariners Thursday night at the Langley Events Centre.
Fontaine roofed a backhand shot past VIU goaltender Matt Huber, giving the Spartans their first lead of the night. Evan Last (Surrey, B.C.) and Brayden Brown (Calgary) also scored for TWU, giving the home side a 1-0 series lead and a chance to win its second BCIHL championship in as many years with a win on Friday night (7 p.m. PT) at the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre.
Trailing 2-0 early in the first period, the Spartans scored a pair of goal before the first intermission to knot the game 2-2 and ultimately set the table – two periods later – for Fontaine's heroics.
VIU's Dylan McCann and Adam Morton scored for the Mariners, who were playing in their first-ever BCIHL championship series in just their second season in the league.
The defending champion Spartans are looking to become the first BCIHL team to win back-to-back championships since Selkirk captured four in a row from 2013 to 2016.
TWU goaltender Lucas Mills (Burnaby, B.C.) made 23 saves for the Spartans in the win, while Vancouver Island goaltender Huber made 32 saves in the loss.
VIU opened the scoring at 5:49 of the first period, when McCann redirected a Gavin Rauser shot to put the Mariners up 1-0. Defenceman Morton extended the Mariners lead to 2-0 less than a minute later after a point shot beat Spartans goaltender Mills.
The Spartans got their first goal of the game later in the period, when Last scored a powerplay goal with 3:15 to go in the first period to cut the Mariners lead to 2-1. Brown then tied the game up with 1:36 left in the first period with a wrist shot beating VIU goaltender Huber.
There were no goals in the second period, as Spartans goaltender Mills stopped all 11 shots the Mariners had, while Huber stopped five Spartan shots on goal.
The game looked destined for overtime as the clock ticked down with teams tied 2-2. Then, with 7.1 seconds left in the final frame, Fontaine scored on a backhand after his initial shot in front was saved by Huber.
TWU finished 1 for 4 on the power play (25%), while VIU finished 0 for 5.
TWU Head Coach Barret Kropf
"It definitely didn't have a playoff feel for the first 10 minutes. Usually you'd expect more intensity. It felt a bit more like an exhibition game at first. Coming out of the first period tied gave us a bit of momentum. After the first, we settled some things down and had a bit of a mental reset. The second period felt more like regular season hockey, and into the third felt much more like a playoff game. Our penalty kill and goaltending led the way tonight, both were phenomenal against a really good power play. Those two being so effective gave our team some good energy tonight. Those last five minutes we just had a good feeling the game would go in our favour based on how everyone was playing. We'll have a good nights rest, and then we have a chance to win a championship tomorrow."
• The Spartans finished the night with 35 shots on net, while the Mariners had 25.
• The Mariners are playing in just the third playoff series in team history and their first BCIHL championship, after sweeping Selkirk in the semifinals (W 6-1) (W 3-2).
• The Spartans were a perfect 6-0 against the Mariners in the regular season, winning four times in regulation and twice in overtime.
• TWU is now 10-1-0-1 all-time against VIU, who entered the league in 2017.
• VIU's last win over TWU came on February 24th, 2018 (6-5 OT).
• The Spartans are looking for back-to-back championships for the first time in team history, after winning last years BCIHL championship series 2-0 over Selkirk College.
The Spartans and Mariners meet again for Game 2 of the championship series Friday night at 7 p.m. (PT). Game 2 will be played at the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre, and can be seen live on www.HockeyTV.com.