BCIHL Hockey: UFV Loses 6-3 to Thompson Rivers University Wolf Pack
The UFV Men’s Hockey Club went into last Friday’s game against the Thompson Rivers University Wolf Pack with a record of 0-9-1 for the season; their one tie was the result of their most recent game. Despite scoring three goals on the night, UFV was unable to secure their first win of the season, as the visiting team was able to put six goals past the Abbotsford hockey club. Perhaps the team’s cut funding is the real culprit.
UFV and the Wolf Pack had met once before this season, when the Wolf Pack dominated the Fraser Valley team in the third period, winning the game 7-2. When we spoke with the Wolf Pack bench before the game, they explained that, while they felt good about their own team’s strength, they were well aware that, in the past, “UFV has always had a solid core and a powerful first line.” Despite their difficulties this season, the UFV reputation clearly still looms large.
This is actually the team’s only losing season since they joined the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League in 2006. In previous seasons, they have consistently finished among the top three teams in the league.
Unfortunately, reputation is not an overly useful defensive tool, and it definitely will not score you goals. For the first ten minutes of the first period, the teams appeared evenly matched, but, when Thompson Rivers scored with 10:21 left in the first, UFV began to unravel, with the score climbing to 3-0 for the Wolf Pack by the first intermission.
During the first intermission, UFV coaches Jarrett Craig and Tyler Adams discussed the team’s growing-pains this season: “We’re getting the guys used to each other,” they explained. The team has a very flexible roster, with every new semester bringing changes to the line-up. This year is the first year that the team is playing without top-scorer Rob Vos, who often leads the league in scoring: “Losing Vos killed the offense a bit.”
At the beginning of the second, UFV successfully killed an almost two-minute long two-man advantage for the Wolf Pack, and then rallied to score their first goal of the game. The Wolf Pack countered with an immediate goal, followed by two other unanswered goals. UFV scored once more, and the second period ended with the Wolf Pack in the lead, 5-2. While each team potted a goal in the third, it was easily the strongest period for UFV. However, their last-hour effort was not enough to counter their sloppy early performance, and the game ended with a final score of 6-3 for the visiting Wolf Pack.
Ultimately, the difference between UFV performances this season compared to past seasons might come down to a matter of money. The UFV team is the only team in the league that has a budget of less than $100,000. Assistant Coach Kyle Krunick discussed the challenges facing an under-funded team during the second intermission: “Without SUS, we’re toast,” he said. All of the team’s funding comes either from SUS or from the players themselves and fundraising they do in the community. The team is not recognized as a varsity team at UFV, so it does not receive any funding from the Athletics Department. However, they are attempting to compete in a league where many schools offer players full scholarships, recruit from the WHL and the BCHL, and have paid coaching staff and trainers: “We are the only team in the league that doesn’t have a paid coach,” Krunick mentioned. It is difficult for a team like UFV, full of students who need to pay for their tuition and their team expenses, to field players who are able to commit as much time to the team as a scholarship-player might be able to.
The funding gap also affects the team’s visibility on campus. There is little room in their budget for marketing: “We put up posters on campus,” Krunick states, “but at Trinity Western, the season-opener had a fireworks show, and they had the guy who sings the national anthem for the Canucks, Mark Donnelly, come out and sing.” Compare that to a home game for UFV; only one quarter of the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre seating is open, and you have to enter the rink through a side door at the south end of the arena. “In the next five years the whole league is going to develop and change a lot,” Krunick suggested, “and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to compete with no money.”