CALGARY- In a must-win game, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (11-13-3) kept their playoff chances alive with a 2-1 victory over the Mount Royal Cougars (15-10-2) at the Flames Community Arenas Friday.
Joe Carvalho and Joe Antilla scored the goals for the Thunderbirds while Connor Rankin scored his 17th of the year for the Cougars.
Needing a few weekend victories to have a shot at the post-season, the UBC Thunderbirds started out strong and commanded play in the first period.
After controlling the first few minutes of play, the Bisons were given an early powerplay chance as Maddison Smiley's stick got up into the face of a Thunderbirds forward behind the net. Late in the powerplay, a big rebound came out to Joe Carvalho, and with seemingly all day to shoot the puck, beat an out of position Cam Lanigan.
The Thunderbirds would add to their early lead less than two minutes later. In a mad scramble in front, the puck came to Joe Antilla who sent a shot towards Lanigan's five hole. Lanigan, caught off guard by the Thunderbird's attempt, was unable to squeeze the pads together as Antilla picked up his 6th of the year.
The Cougars finally got a call to go their way with five minutes remaining in the period when Adam Rossignol interfered with Cam Maclise at the blue line, sending the division's top ranked power play to work.
Determined, the Thunderbirds penalty kill threw their body down and turned away multiple good Cougars attempts before even reaching goaltender Derek Dun.
While the Cougars commanded play in the last few minutes, they couldn't beat Dun and went into the room down two after a sloppy first frame.
The Cougars got a golden chance midway through the second period when the Thunderbirds took back-to -back penalties, giving the home squad 1:25 of 5-on-3 time.
The Thunderbirds prevented the Cougars from getting any good chances during the extended powerplay, with most of the shots coming from the blue line where many were blocked aside in front.
The division's top scorer, Connor Rankin, would pull Mount Royal within one with six and a half minutes remaining in the second. Coming in one a two on one, Rankin let a slap shot go from the dot in the circle, ringing off the post and into the net for his 17th goal of the year.
Rankin's marker would be the only goal of the period, leaving his team trailing by one going into the third.
Attempting to protect their lead, the Thunderbirds took two straight penalties midway through the third. As they did on the 5-on-3 kill earlier in the game, the Thunderbirds did a good job closing lanes and getting their body on pucks.
With time ticking down on the clock the Cougars' were unable to generate any pressure in the Thunderbirds zone. It wasn't until there was nine seconds remaining that the Cougars found a scoring chance when Matthew Brown sent a wrist shot just over the top of the net.
Clearing the puck out of their zone, the Thunderbirds collected the 2-1 victory with the help of 25 saves from Dun.
The two teams will play their final game of the regular season tomorrow evening at 3 p.m.