VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds dug down and looked like a team on a mission earning a 3-1 win over the Alberta Pandas in game two of the Canada West final Saturday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre forcing a third and deciding game for the conference title.
The T-Birds scored twice in the final two minutes of the first period and kept the pedal down in the second, putting up 11 of their 21 shots in the middle frame.
“We battled extremely hard, the effort and heart level was there tonight,” said UBC head coach Graham Thomas.
“We came out in the second after making some adjustments and the girls executed. We were able to sustain a lot of pressure and momentum. We needed to get ourselves in front of some more pucks. Our defence did a great job and blocked a lot but so did our forwards.”
With their lead cut to one after two periods, the T-Birds completed a critical penalty kill midway though the third and kept up their solid puck control while getting an insurance marker as Amelia Boughn was spectacular in net making 25 saves for the win.
The Pandas started the game much like they finished game one, controlling the puck well and generating quality scoring chances but thanks in large part to Boughn’s stellar play the game remained scoreless late into the first.
That is until Kathleen Cahoon sped into the offensive zone and onto a loose puck which she fired past Lindsey Post and into the net giving the T-Birds their first lead of the series. Cahoon’s unassisted goal was also her first of the post-season and it provided a big spark.
Just 50 seconds later the T-Birds doubled their lead thanks to Haneet Parhar. The veteran forward batted a bouncing puck low in the slot past Post at the 19:24 mark as the T-Birds had all the momentum on their side heading into the break.
The T-Birds absolutely dominated play in the second period with plenty of pressure in the offensive zone but were unable to get the puck past Post. Instead it was the Pandas who got on the board with Taylor Kezama’s first of the playoffs on the power play at the 13:45 mark. It was the third power play goal of the series for Alberta who so far has only scored with the man advantage.
The Pandas finished the game 1-for-2 on the power play while UBC once again went 0-for-1.
The T-Birds restored their two-goal lead 14:05 into the third as Melissa Goodwin one-timed the puck from the slot for her first of the post-season. Jenna Carptener-Boesch made a beautiful sweeping pass from down low to Goodwin. Emily O’Neill picked up the second assist on the goal.
The UBC victory snaps a 14-game Alberta win streak dating back to January 7th when the Pandas beat UBC 2-1 in a game that coincidentally ended the ‘Birds historic 15-game win streak.
More importantly for the ‘Birds, the win gives UBC a chance to earn back-to-back Canada West titles for the first time in team history.
“We need to focus on business and come ready to play like we did today,” said Thomas.
“For our seniors and our team as a whole, it’s our last game at home so we just need to remember that we’re fighting and we’re defending our title and that should give us that extra push.”
Game three begins at 3:00 p.m. PT on Sunday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.