Vancouver, BC – The University of British Columbia men’s hockey team is back to business after splitting their Winter Classic weekend series with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Having clinched a spot in the Canada West playoffs, the fourth place Thunderbirds look forward to hosting the seventh place University of Regina Cougars at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre this Friday and Saturday.
The past weekend came with exciting highs and lows as the ‘Birds skated in front of a record-breaking crowd of 3,049 on Friday night, but were defeated in double overtime. The sting of the loss was reversed the next day, however, when goaltender Matt Hewitt made 22 saves for his first CIS shutout, helping UBC to overcome the Huskies 5-0 with goals from Nick Buonassisi, Greg Fraser, Brad Hoban, Joe Antilla, and Anthony Bardaro. Buonassisi, Fraser, and Bardaro had multi-point nights.
UBC looks to finish the remaining four games of the season on a high note, beginning this weekend with Regina. Before splitting their last two games with the University of Manitoba Bison, the Cougars endured a four-game losing streak, dwindling their points in the Canada West to 16. While UBC boasts 26 points, there are still five points between them and the third place Mount Royal University.
The last time the two teams met they split the weekend. The ‘Birds defeated the Cougars 4-2 with a pair of short handed goals from Buonassisi and Linden Saip, and then Bardaro and Luke Lockhart secured the win in the third. UBC lost the rematch, however, shut down by Lucas Gore in net and two goals from Tyler Henry.
Key to winning the game will be shutting down Regina’s emerging top offensive line. Last weekend alone Sanfred King, Ian McNulty and first year Dylen McKinlay combined for 11 points. King, who leads the Cougars in scoring with seven goals and three assists, is on a three game point streak. He scored two goals in two minutes in last Friday’s matchup and had a goal and an assist in Saturday’s.
The Thunderbirds will also have to get around goaltenders Mitch Kilgore (3- 3-1) and Gore (4-13-0), who are ranked 11th and 12th for top goalies in Canada West. Kilgore boasts a .908 save average while Gore has earned a .903. Last weekend’s shutout superstar for UBC Matt Hewitt (5-4-2) rests just below in 13th with .890 average. Should first-year Eric Williams (6-5-2) get the start, UBC can count on his .917 save average in net.
UBC will look for offensive firepower from their top scorers Cole Wilson (10g, 7a) and Buonassisi (9g, 4a) in their upcoming matchup. Coupled with the handy Bardaro who is sixth in the league and first on the team as a point producer with five goals and fifteen assists, the ‘Birds’ attack should be lively.
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 pm at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre both Friday and Saturday night.