By Jeremy Laurie
VANCOUVER – The No. 2-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies (19-3-0) scored five times times in the third period to secure a 6-2 victory over the UBC Thunderbirds (9-10-3) in Canada West men’s hockey action Saturday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.
The Huskies maintain their six-point lead over the Alberta Golden Bears for top spot in the conference standings. With 21 points, the Thunderbirds currently hold the final league playoff spot in sixth place.
Saskatchewan’s Kohl Bauml had two goals, while Matthew Spafford, Connor Cox, Levi Cable and Cameron Blair had one each.
UBC’s Anthony Bardaro scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season, and Jessi Hilton netted his second.
While UBC’s Matt Hewitt and Saskatchewan’s Jordon Cooke had impressive performances between the pipes on Friday night, both teams opted to change things up for Saturday’s game.
Saskatchewan went with goaltender Blake Voth, who finished with 17 saves to earn his third win in as many starts this season.
Eric Williams was in net for the Thunderbirds and made 33 saves in a losing cause.
Williams was put the test throughout the opening period and came up big midway through the first with a sliding pad save off a wrister from Saskatchewan’s Michael Sofillas. Williams kept the ‘Birds alive through the first period, where UBC was outshot 14-5.
UBC’s best opportunity came the dying seconds of the first frame when Bardaro found Scott MacDonald alone in front of the Huskies net. MacDonald whipped the puck towards the bottom right corner, but it was deflected away by a sprawling stick save from Voth. The game remained scoreless heading into the second.
The Huskies were awarded a four-minute power play at 6:06 in the second, but stingy UBC defence prevented Saskatchewan from generating any meaningful chances for over three minutes. Then, with 28 seconds left on the penalty, Saskatchewan’s Kohl Bauml from out front ripped the puck into the top right corner, giving the Huskies the one-goal lead.
The T-Birds responded with their own power play goal at 13:13 in the second. Neil Manning passed to Bardaro who went wide around two Huskies defenders, fooled Voth with a deke and sniped the puck top-shelf. The power play goal, Bardaro’s 21st point of the season, tied things up and gave UBC its first goal of the weekend.
A mad scramble in front of the T-Birds’ net at 1:03 in the third resulted in the Huskies second goal. Spafford managed to cram the puck in, while Cox and Jordan Fransoo picked up helpers.
The ‘Birds responded just over a minute later when a bad angle shot from Hilton squeaked by Voth, deflecting off the post and in. Nick Buonassisi picked up an assist on the play.
Williams continued to make crucial saves throughout steady offensive pressure from the Huskies. At 7:56 in the third, he again shut the door with a pad save, but the rebound found Bauml’s stick and he roofed it for his second of the game, giving Saskatchewan a 3-2 lead.
UBC continued to have difficulty staying out of the box and, while on the penalty kill, Cox scored to lift the Huskies to a two-goal lead at 9:25.
Williams was pulled with just over two minutes left in regulation in an attempt to get UBC within one, but an empty netter from Cable at 19:05 gave the Huskies a substantial late-game lead.
Just 16 seconds, Blair rounded out the scoring.
UBC will spend another weekend on home ice when they host the Lethbridge Pronghorns (8-13-1) on Friday, January 29 and Saturday, January 30. Both games will commence at 7 p.m. (PT) at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Friday’s matchup is the annual UBC Thunderbirds Winter Classic, while the team’s graduating seniors will be honoured before Saturday’s game.
The Huskies will host the Manitoba Bisons (10-10-2) next weekend.