For the second year running, the Vancouver Island University Mariners took on the Simon Fraser University Red Leafs for the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) title.

And for the second year running, the Mariners fell to the Red Leafs in the final.

Austin Daniels battles in front of the University of Victoria net during action earlier this season in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League. Daniels and his brother, Brady Daniels, played with Vancouver Island University this season and got to the finals earlier this month, but fell to Simon Fraser University. Photo courtesy of Corey Shaw

Why are we telling you this? Because Yellowknife brothers Brady and Austin Daniels suited up for the Mariners this past season.

The Mariners fell in game two of the best-of-three final on March 18 by a score of 5-2, giving Simon Fraser the crown again. The Red Leafs won the opening game the night before, 7-1.

Brady, who played with the Mariners in the 2022 final, said his team wanted to come out and make a statement after the blowout loss in Game 1.

Only problem was they were on the back foot almost right off the bat thanks to a hooking call against Mariners forward Brock Palmer.

“We’re ready to go and we end up on the penalty kill four seconds into it,” he said. “No team wants to have their back against the wall that early, especially against a team like SFU.”

The Red Leafs made no mistake with the man-advantage, scoring 20 seconds into the power-play to go out in front. They would double that lead roughly 30 seconds later to put the Mariners in an early 2-0 hole. The Red Leafs tacked on another two goals in the second period to double their lead to 4-0 before the Mariners got on the scoresheet with just under eight minutes left in the middle frame; Brady notched an assist on that goal. A short-handed goal late in the period got the Mariners within striking distance at 4-2.

But Simon Fraser put the game to bed late in the third with a fifth tally to claim the title.

Austin said it wasn’t way the Mariners wanted things to end.

“You go out and you’re hungry to get that game, especially coming off a loss like that in Game 1,” he said. “It’s an elimination game — you give what you got, you’re focused and the game starts off like that. That’s rough.”

It was a battle between the two best teams in BCIHL during the regular season. The Red Leafs finished atop the standings, losing just once in 20 games — that loss coming against the Mariners on the opening night of the season, while the Mariners ended up second. In the playoffs, SFU beat out the Okanagan Lakers in their semifinal, while the Mariners defeated the University of Victoria in two straight to move into the final.

Brady said he knew it would be another tough job to try and beat the Red Leafs this season.

“We talked about us versus them because we knew they would be the team to beat,” he said. “They had pretty much the same roster as last season, but it was a bit of an inspiration to beat them on opening night. That was a huge confidence boost for us to beat a team like that.”

Brady, who’s a forward, played in 17 regular season games for the Mariners this season, scoring six goals and adding four assists for 10 points in what was his final season in a VIU uniform. Austin played in his freshman season, splitting time as a forward and defenceman, and played in 14 games, notching three assists.

Having joined the Mariners after playing with the Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League last season, Austin said he was surprised at the level of play.

“I expected to be better than the KIJHL, but it was really fast and physical,” he said. “There’s only five teams and it can be easy to say there isn’t much competition. But the advantage of being in a small league is it creates rivalries. You’re playing the same teams often.”

This wasn’t the first time the Daniels brothers have played together — they were part of the Dynamiters to start the 2019-2020 KIJHL season, but were traded to 100 Mile House during the season. Things didn’t work out in their new locale and they chose to return home to Yellowknife.

Brady will be graduating this year, one of seven VIU players doing so. While he doesn’t know where the next journey will begin, he said he wants to keep playing hockey.

“I’ve had two great seasons here (at VIU) and I’ve been lucky to have played in two championships,” he said. “Getting close both times is a heart-breaker, but I can look back and realize how lucky I was to be able to be around a great team and grateful to have had the successes I’ve had.”

Austin plans on returning to VIU next season and said he loved getting the chance to play a full season with his older brother.

“Not a lot of people get to do that,” he said. “It was awesome to have the chance to go to the rink with him every day and share the experience with him.”

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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