VANCOUVER – A remarkably improved Chinese national women’s hockey team handed the UBC Thunderbirds a 3-2 double overtime loss in a thrilling exhibition matchup at Father David Bauer Arena Wednesday night.

Almost a year after the T-Birds dominated team China in a 4-1 win, this time the visitors gave UBC everything they could handle and then some.

China never held the lead but managed to tie the game at two with less than five minutes remaining in the third period to force overtime.

After killing off a too many men on the ice penalty in 4-on-4 overtime, a pair of Chinese tripping penalties gave the ‘Birds a 5-on-3 advantage in double overtime but they couldn’t capitalize. A turnover in the UBC zone eventually led to a scramble in the crease and the game winner.

“This year team China all changed,” said Chinese forward Fang Xin who is thrilled with the progress her team has made over the past 12 months.

Photo credit Ben Nelms/UBC Athletics
Photo credit Ben Nelms/UBC Athletics

“We had four North Americans join our team. Our coaches are very good. They have taught us so many new things and have been so important for us.”

The Chinese outshot the T-Birds 40-25 while a sizeable number of Amelia Boughn‘s 37 saves were potential game-savers.

“That’s a big boost for her to battle as hard as she did,” said UBC head coach Graham Thomas about his netminder.

“She wears her heart on her sleeve and that’s what we need is a player to lead like that. She played great and is going to be a big backbone for us this year.”

The bench boss liked his team’s response in the third period as did newly minted captain Celine Tardif.

“If we play our third period mentality all the way through with energy, right from the start, we should be good to go,” said the fourth-year defenceman who also appreciates the level of pre-season competition the T-Birds are facing.

“It’s a great challenge for us and an awesome experience for them to come here and play us. It’s important for us to get a good start to the season to have this sort of competition.”

Rookie forward Emily Costales and veteran Logan Boyd scored for UBC while Cassandra Vilgrain, Hannah Clayton-Carroll and Kathleen Cahoon each finished with an assist.

The Thunderbirds couldn’t convert on seven power play chances while the Chinese scored on their first opportunity but finished the game 1-for-7.

UBC continues a busy week of pre-season action this Friday and Saturday against Team BC before hosting the Vanke Rays of the CWHL on Monday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.