Vancouver, BC – The No. 9 ranked University of British Columbia’s women’s hockey team looks to continue to rise up the Canada West standings with a pair of wins against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns this weekend. The Thunderbirds currently sit in third in the Canada West standings, will host the Pronghorns at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre this coming Friday and Saturday for the penultimate home stand of the regular season.
The past weekend at the University of Regina resulted in a split series in which UBC suffered a 4-0 shutout loss that snapped their four game winning streak. In the rematch the following day, the ‘Birds were able to claim a ‘W’ from the Cougars thanks to Kelly Murray‘s game-winning goal in the third, securing a 3-2 victory.
UBC now sits third in the conference, tied with Calgary at 42 points, but they UBC holds the head to head tiebreaker against the Dinos . With an impressive record of 13-5-4 they hope to secure a weekend sweep of the visiting Pronghorns.
“We just need to come prepared to play our game and our system,” UBC head coach Graham Thomas said of the upcoming game. “We need to focus on us and be ready to compete. These last couple of points are crucial for us.”
Lethbridge, last in the division with a record of 4-18-0, comes to Vancouver looking to put an end to its six-game losing streak. After two difficult shutout losses from their last series with the Calgary Dinos, the Pronghorns are looking to find the back of the net and some points.
Key to winning the game for the Thunderbirds is coming out fast and hard. Securing a few goals early in the game will set the tempo in UBC’s favour.
“We need to use our speed and get on the board first,” said Thomas. “They’ve got a goalie that can get hot so we’ve got to jump.”
Another area of focus for UBC to improve upon is their power play. They went 1-for-13 over the weekend in Regina, a rusty statistic given that the top two power play goal leaders in the Canada West are Thunderbirds. Nicole Saxvik and Tatiana Rafter lead the division with six and five PPGs apiece, although the team hasn’t been able to capitalize on the advantage as of late.
“It needs to be better,” said Thomas. “We need to create more movement with both the puck and our bodies to create more of those scoring opportunities. We’ve got to get the power play up to match the force of our penalty kill.”
Rafter and Saxvik are also ranked fifth and 10th in the division as top scorers, and share first place on the team with nine goals each. Rebecca Unrau follows closely in second with eight goals so far this season. Offensive firepower will be looking for help from handy defenseman Sarah Casorso who leads the team in assists with 12, as well as game-winning goal star from last weekend Murray, who has 11.
Scoring is imperative for the Pronghorns after being shutout last weekend. Lethbridge also needs to jump on the board first to control the pace of the game. Their top scorers are forwards Jenae Culp and Sadie Lenstra, tied for first on the team with 10 points apiece. Culp has six goals and four assists and Lenstra has five goals and five assists. UBC defence needs to keep their eyes out for Kirsten Reeves, who has the most shots on goal out of both teams with an whopping 86 pucks directed at the net.
The weekend at ‘the Doug’ kicks off Friday night at 7:00 pm, followed by a rematch Saturday at the same place and time.