UBC Thunderbirds top Mount Royal Cougars in home opener

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UBC Thunderbirds improve to 3-0 on the season after an emotion-filled game with Mount Royal on Friday night. (October 12, 2018)

Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN

The UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team collected their third straight victory to open the 2018.2019 Canada West season, defeating the Mount Royal Cougars by a final of 3-1 on Friday night at UBC. For the Thunderbirds, Friday night would mark their first home game of the season as UBC would take the first of back-to-back meetings with Mount Royal this weekend. Both teams would come into Friday night’s action sporting identical 2-0 records on the season, with both UBC and Mount Royal’s offences clicking early in the season averaging over four goals a game through their first two contests.

Just forty seconds into Friday night’s contest the Thunderbirds would get on the board, with UBC’s leading-scorer from last season Austin Vetterl going hard to the net and re-directing a centering pass to put UBC ahead 1-0 on the T-Birds first shot of the evening. With an assist on the goal, T-Birds’ first year forward Steven Hodges would tally his first point with UBC. After an early push from UBC the Cougars would compose themselves, limiting the Thunderbirds to just three shots in the opening ten minutes. Third year T-Bird Tanner Faith would then be involved in a heavy collision behind the UBC goal in the first period and would leave the ice slowly, but wouldn’t miss any action because of it.

Both teams would throw their weight around in the opening frame with Cougars’ defenceman Tyson Helgesen leading the way, however neither team would be able to create any sustained offense. After skating four-on-four earlier in the period the Thunderbirds would get their first full powerplay late in the frame, after Mount Royals’ Grant Baker would head to the box for tripping. On the man advantage UBC’s Vetterl would have the T-Birds best chance, getting two point blank rebound opportunities in front of Cougars goalie Colin Cooper but failing to cash in. The period would draw to a close with the T-Birds ahead by a goal, and leading in shots 12-9.

In a game that would not see a large number of legitimate odd-man rushes, UBC would get a clean two-on-one in the early going of period two but would be unable to convert. For Mount Royal they would continue to struggle getting good chances at UBC goalie Rylan Toth, but would see some success when using their speed to go wide on the Thunderbirds’ defence. UBC would get their third powerplay of the game but would only manage a single shot as the games sloppy pace would continue. Cougars forward Brandan Arnold would have his teams only good scoring chance of the period, getting right in front of Toth and sending a turn around backhander just wide of the net. Arnold would leave the game late in the third period after being involved in a heavy collision behind the Cougars’ net and would not return.

Late in the frame Mount Royal goaltender Colin Cooper would make the save of the game, sliding to his left on a bang-bang play and sticking out his left pad to deny the T-Birds a two-goal lead. At this point in the contest after allowing the first shot of the game, Cooper would make twenty-one straight stops heading into the final frame to keep his team within a goal. The two teams would head to their respective dressing rooms with UBC still ahead 1-0 heading into the third period.

The Mount Royal Cougars would begin the final frame on a two-man advantage, after a skirmish to end the second would see UBC’s Shaun Dosanjh in the box along with Tanner Faith, who was already serving for a slash. The Cougars would fail to cash in on their two-man advantage but would finally break through just moments after, with Saskatoon-born forward Josh Bly cashing in on a rebound at the side of the net and roofing it past Toth to tie the game 1-1. The game would not stay tied for long however, as UBC’s Colton Kehler would restore the UBC lead by snapping a quick shot from the left circle over the shoulder of Colin Cooper. For Kehler, a native of Port Coquitlam, this would be his first goal in UBC colours. Things would get heated down the stretch, but cooler heads would prevail before Austin Vetterl would tally his second of the night into an empty net. UBC would hang on to win by a 3-1 final.

For both UBC and Mount Royal, Friday night’s clash would not feature the most organized play from either side. For UBC the Thunderbirds’ defence was too slow in transitioning the puck out of their own zone, however able to make plays when they did. The Cougars would also have difficulties when exiting their own zone, however the main culprit for Mount Royal would be their sloppy breakout passes. Some good sticks in their own zone would keep UBC shooters to the outsides for the majority of the night, but the inability for either team to create odd-man rushes will be something both clubs will look to address going forward. Austin Vetterl would record a pair of goals while G Rylan Toth would pick up the win for UBC.

UBC and Mount Royal resume their two-game set on Saturday afternoon, with the Thunderbirds looking to improve to 3-0 while the Cougars will look to avoid falling to .500 on the season.

Tonight’s ISN Scouting Report:

UBC Thunderbirds – F Steven Hodges
Skilled forward with great strength and foot speed, hard to take off the puck and creates a lot of offence with his aggressiveness.

Mount Royal Cougars – D Tyson Helgesen
Heavy-hitting defenceman with the ability to slide from the LD to RD positions in order to make open ice contact.

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