Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds (15-10-2) battled back from multiple deficits against the top team in the country but fell 5-4 in overtime to the Alberta Golden Bears (23-3-1) Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Tied at three after 40 minutes, the Bears re-took the lead midway through the third on a Jason Fram power play goal after the defenceman shot the puck from a sharp angle that took a strange deflection off Matt Hewitt's stick and in.
But the resilient Thunderbirds evened the game at four just over two minutes later when Carter Popoff deflected a Joe Carvalho point shot for his second of the game and seventh of the season at the 10:56 mark.
Both teams traded chances in four-on-four overtime but it was Graeme Craig who wristed his second of the game from the low slot past Hewitt for Alberta's seventh straight win.
The first period was a dominant show of force by the first place Golden Bears who outshot the 'Birds by a 22-4 margin. If not for some stellar play yet again by Hewitt, the game could have been over before the first 20 minutes was out. Hewitt made 20 saves in the first period alone finishing with 38 in the loss.
The Bears opened scoring 9:27 into the first with Craig's first of the night and eighth of the season. The blue liner shot the puck from the left wing boards and saw it ricochet off two Thunderbirds defencemen and past a helpless Hewitt. The visitors doubled their lead six minutes later Steven Owre picked up a rebound in tight and popped home his 17th of the campaign, tops among all Canada West rookies.
But the T-Birds were able to get on the board before the period was out on the power play with just over a minute remaining. Nick Buonassisi fed puck from the wall to a waiting Popoff in the slot who one-timed the puck past Zach Sawchenko.
The Bears began the second on a continued power play and made good on it with Stephane Legault's eighth at the 1:23 mark. But from that point forward it was the Thunderbirds who dictated the pace of the period and their increased effort paid off with their second power play goal of the game. A Tyler Sandhu one-timer blast went off the end glass and bounced right onto Matt Revel's stick who made no mistake for his ninth, 7:30 into the frame.
The 'Birds then tied the game at three with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second with yet another power play goal, this time an Austin Vetterl deflection of a Jerret Smith shot, Michael Stenerson picked up the second assist.
UBC finished 3-for-5 on the man advantage while Alberta went 2-for-8. The Bears outshot the 'Birds 43-20 with Sawchenko picking up his 12th win between the pipes.
Prior to puck drop the Thunderbirds honoured their three graduating seniors in Buonassisi, Hewitt, and captain Wes Vannieuwenhuizen.
The 'Birds head into Saturday's regular season finale against the Bears locked in fourth place in the conference, two points back of the Manitoba Bisons who hold the tie breaker over the T-Birds. Puck drop at Doug Mitchell is set for 2:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds