VANCOUVER – The University of British Columbia men’s hockey team defeated the University of Manitoba Bisons 3-1 in the final game of a best-of-three quarter-final series. With the victory, the Thunderbirds advance to the Canada West semi finals, against either Alberta or Calgary.
Head coach Tyler Kuntz has emphasized the need to play a consistent game all series, and UBC best demonstrated their ability to do so tonight. Cole Wilson, Manraj Hayer, and Anthony Bardaro‘s line single-handedly took care of all goals tonight for the ‘Birds. In the three game series itself, the line was responsible for six out of the 11 total goals scored by Thunderbirds.
“They were killer out there,” Kuntz said following UBC’s victory. “We put [Wilson’s] line together the weekend before Christmas break and on that weekend they had four or five goals, so, they’ve been really good since then. And they scored those first two goals; we’ve made it a goal to score first and we’ve done it every game this series. Today, we also did a good job of keeping that lead.”
Once again, UBC was first on the board, and this time, they were sure to secure and keep the lead. Following an offensive barrage courtesy of Wilson, Hayer, Bardaro and defenceman Neil Manning, Manitoba goaltender Byron Spriggs released and untimely rebound that Wilson was able to corral for his first goal of the game.
Another rush led by Wilson a little over halfway into the first earned the T-Birds their second tally of the period, securing their lead 2-0. After keeping the pressure on Spriggs, Hayer found himself with the puck and with a mighty sweep, netted his second goal and fifth point of the post-season.
The Thunderbirds were able to maintain their 2-0 lead throughout the second, despite some scrappy play. One particularly rough hit put Hayer out of play for the remainder of the game.
With 1:53 left in the Bisons’ season, Spriggs was pulled in favour of the extra skater. Manitoba battled for their playoff season lives with the man-advantage, but Wilson was able to extract the puck from their possession and ring in an empty netter from the neutral zone, his third of the series.
The Bisons weren’t going to leave empty handed, however, robbing rookie goaltender Eric Williams of his second shut out of his young CIS career. With 5.3 seconds remaining in the game, he was drawn glove side, freeing up his top left corner, where Jory Coates was free to score the Bisons’ only goal of the game.
“It kind of sucked,” Williams said, following the closing of the series. “But, at the same time, a win’s a win and we’re going to move on. Whether the score was 8-7 or 1-0 I would’ve been just as happy. We got the win and we’re going to move on and get ready this week to play whoever it is and we’re going to make sure we’re prepared.”
UBC’s next opponent is contingent upon which teams wins the final game in the quarterfinal series between the University of Saskatchewan and Mount Royal University tomorrow evening. Should Saskatchewan win, the ‘Birds will play Calgary; if Mount Royal wins, they will play Alberta. Last year, UBC was knocked out of the playoffs in two games to the Golden Bears.
“If you’re going to go to Nationals, you’ve got to go through Alberta,” Kuntz said of the upcoming week’s preparations. “They’re the best in Canada, so, we would love to go there and test them out.”