By Lee Dorner (UBC Sports Information Assistant)
January 20, 2013, Vancouver, BC – The UBC Thunderbirds are on the verge of locking up a playoff spot after their 3-0 shutout win over the Saskatchewan Huskies Saturday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Emily Grainger, Stephanie Schaupmeyer and Tatiana Rafter scored UBC’s goals. The team improves to 11-7-4.
After controlling the play late in Friday’s tie game before eventually losing in a shootout, head coach Graham Thomas noted that his team needed to start Saturday’s game with the kind of effort they put forth to end regulation on Friday. And less than a minute into the action on UBC’s first shot of the game, Grainger pounced on a loose puck on the doorstep to give the ‘Birds that hot start they were looking for.
“We had some scrambles and it wasn’t yet a full 60 minute effort, but it was much better and we came out in the first period just flying,” said Thomas. “We came out with a purpose and a bit of a chip on our shoulder from what happened the night before and that was a really good response.”
The T-Birds doubled the lead midway through the first on Schaupmeyer’s second marker of the weekend. She picked up a rebound at the side of the net and banged it home, with assists going to linemates Rafter and Nicole Savix.
That combination gave the Huskies fits all night, putting them under constant pressure when they were on the ice and accounting for two of UBC’s three goals.
“Those three are really clicking, which is great because at one point we thought we might change out the lines,” Thomas said. “But those three are really looking for each other and making good plays together. They have some good chemistry and it’s great to see.”
Rafter scored UBC’s third of the game early in the third, taking a drop pass in the slot from Schaupmeyer and beating Huskies goalie Cassidy Hendricks blocker-side.
Saskatchewan’s best chances came in the second period during a nearly four-minute powerplay situation resulting from two UBC minors that overlapped by 17 seconds. The Huskies spend the entire stretch buzzing around the UBC net and fired six shots at goalie Samantha Langford, but she stood tall against the pressure to save all 27 shots she saw on the night for her first career CIS shutout.
Penalties were the only thing keeping UBC from running too away with the game, as they made seven trips to the box over the final two periods, compared to just two for the Huskies during that time. That allowed Saskatchewan to outshoot UBC 27-16 in the game and 20-7 in the final two periods.
The win puts UBC 10 points up on Mount Royal, who currently represent the bubble team on the outside of playoff position looking in. Those two teams go head to head next week in Calgary, so the ‘Birds can guarantee their trip to the playoffs with a series split.
The Huskies fall to 8-10-4 and sit in sixth place, just four points up on Mount Royal. They will face provincial rivals Regina in a home-and-home series next weekend.
The next home action for UBC will be the team’s final home series of the regular season. That goes Feb. 1-2 against Manitoba.