Aldergrove’s Lucas Mills made 25 saves to pick up the victory as the Langley-based Trinity Western Spartans opened their 2019-20 regular season with an emphatic win over the Vancouver Island Mariners Saturday (Oct. 12) at the Langley Events Centre. (TWU photo)

Spartans defeat Mariners in overtime thriller

Langley-based hockey team opens 2019-20 regular season with an emphatic win

Aldergrove’s Kade Vilio tallied the game winning goal with 48 seconds left in the overtime frame as the Trinity Western Spartans opened their 2019-20 regular season with an 5-4 win over the Vancouver Island Mariners Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.

Josh Bruce, Aldergrove’s Elijah Vilio, Travis Verveda and Evan Last also scored for the Spartans, while goaltender Lucas Mills, also from Aldergrove, made 25 saves to pick up the victory.

VIU’s Brett Witala had two goals, while Gage Colpron and Garrett Dunlop each added singles.

Jeremy Balyk made 40 saves for the Mariners in the loss, as VIU’s record dropped to 2-2-0-1 on the year.

First-year TWU forward Bruce opened the scoring at 6:16 of the first period, tallying his first career goal off a backhand.

Witala then responded for the Mariners on the power play, scoring his third goal of the season to make it 1-1 at 10:20 of the first. Dunlop then added another for the Mariners with just over three minutes left in the first making it 2-1 VIU.

The Mariners continued rolling in the second period, with captain Colpron taking a Dunlop feed and beating Mills to push their lead to two.

TWU got back within one goal at 6:25 of the second, as a Verveda one-timer on the powerplay beat Balyk to make it 3-2.

Another Spartans defenceman then knotted the game up 3-3, with Elijah Vilio jumping in on the rush with an individual effort at 10:01 of the second period.

Witala scored his second of the game for the Mariners at 6:39 of the final frame to regain the Mariners lead.

The back and forth affair continued as Last fired a wrist shot over Balyk’s glove hand to tie the game at 8:13 of the third.

Despite both teams having numerous chances late in the game, including a Mariners power play in the final five minutes, regulation time was unable to solve anything.

That set up the late game heroics.

After hitting the crossbar earlier in the extra frame, Bruce found Kade Vilio alone in front with 48 seconds left in overtime, who buried it five-hole past Balyk for the game-winner on opening night.

READ MORE: TWU Spartans goalie Mills sets record in hockey shutout

READ MORE: Langley’s Spartans to play hockey in top university league

TWU Coach Barret Kropf said the team has had “a very abnormal preseason playing lots of different teams at different levels, being banged up and short staffed.”

“That was reflective in tonight’s game, we had spurts of really good momentum and spurts where we didn’t,” Kropf elaborated.

“I wouldn’t say we had a bad game, but it just looked like we didn’t have the flow we usually do. There was some things tonight we definitely need to keep working on in practice.”

Saturday was the first meeting between VIU and TWU since last season’s BCIHL championship series, •

TWU has now extended their winning streak over Vancouver Island to nine consecutive games, with their last loss against the Mariners coming in Nanaimo on February 24, 2018 (6-5 L).

Spartans home opener was also their final as a member of the BCIHL as TWU will enter U SPORTS in 2020-21. Next up, Spartans continue their homestand on Friday (Oct. 18), playing host to Victoria at the Langley Events Centre.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

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