NANAIMO — With one game left in the first half of the BCIHL season the VIU Mariners are in the middle of the standings.
The team is off to a 5-6 start in their inaugural season and according to coach Steve Paul the program is making steady progress on the ice.
"To be .500 right now, of course you want to be better, but we're doing alright," said Paul. "I think we can grow so by the end of the year we can be a lot better than we are now."
There were a lot of unknowns heading in to the first year of the program but Paul says buy in from the community and Vancouver Island University has been fantastic so far.
"It's just going to grow, and now people know this type of hockey's in town. It's a different brand of hockey, we're not trying to take over any other brands (BCHL, VIJHL). It's a different animal on it's own and I think it's just going to get better from here," said Paul.
On Saturday the Mariners host the number one team in the BCIHL, the Selkirk Saints.
If VIU can beat the 10-1-0-1 Steelers they'll end the first half with at least one win against every team in the league.
Selkirk won the league championship four years running between 2013-2016 and Paul says there are some things the Saints have done that the Mariners want to instill in their program.
"There's programs out there that are very successful and it doesn't hurt to look and see what their doing to get better but we also want to create are own."
Once Saturday's game is over VIU won't play until January 6.
Paul says the focus for the first part of the time off will be exams.
He then wants his players to get some down time to share with their families once school wraps up for Christmas break.
Still there will be a team plan in place to manage a full one month off between games.
Saturday's contest against Selkirk is a 4:30 p.m. start time at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
In the lead up to the game the Mariners are hosting a food drive for the Loaves and Fishes Food Bank.
Non-perishable food items are being collected outside the Business Students Association office on campus up until game time, and fans can also bring donations to the game at the NIC as well.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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