By Tim Huebsch (UBC Sports Information Assistant)
VANCOUVER – The No. 4-ranked UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team brushed off an early one-goal deficit to defeat the No. 3 Alberta Pandas 3-1 on Friday evening. Alberta's Jessica Kampjes' 10th of the season was the lone goal through the opening frame before Rebecca Unrau scored a pair of unanswered goals nine minutes apart in the second jumpstarting the T-Birds offence.
UBC's Nicole Saxvik got in on the action in the third providing an insurance marker as the T-Birds scored a trio of goals in the latter two periods.
"We knew coming in Alberta was a high scoring team, and we were able to make the proper adjustments," added Unrau, who has three goals, and four points, in her past two games.
"Though missing that final open net was a bit bitter."
With 1:18 to play in the third, Alberta pulled their goalie, to no avail, with Unrau missing by an agonizingly close margin on a partial break after diving for the puck, failing to register the hat trick. Alberta's Jessica Sekulic went down on the play, but was able to skate off partially on her own power, a scary moment to end any game.
The win over the typically high scoring Pandas increases the T-Birds (8-1-2) lead in the Canada West while Alberta falls to 7-4-0 on the season and remain in a tie for second with Manitoba. The win was also the Thunderbirds' fourth straight; in the process handing Alberta it's first set of back-to-back losses this season.
No surprises in net this evening as Samantha Langford and Lindsey Post led their respective teams onto the ice. Langford has now started ten straight games while Post one-ups Langford having started every one of Alberta's 11 games this season.
Nikola Brown-John's slashing penalty created the games first odd-man opportunity and Alberta would make no mistake. Alberta's Kampjes was able to get a stick on Deanna Morin's weak shot from the left half boards and deflect it past a fooled Langford. The goal was Kampjes' 10th of the year, good for share of the CIS lead in that department, adding to her team lead in points, now at 16 on the season.
The Thunderbirds entered the first intermission in a rather unfamiliar place, with a 1-0 deficit to erase. It was just the third time this season that the Thunderbirds have allowed a first period goal and just the second time the T-Birds haven't scored the games opening goal.
The home team managed just five shots in the frame, though just one less than Alberta's six, but never tested Post.
To tie the game up at one, Unrau provided an absolute beauty, extending her point streak to six games, with eight points during that span. Stephanie Schaupmeyer sprung Unrau on a clear break, but not before an Alberta defenceman got wood on it requiring Unrau to corral the puck from shoulder level. The fourth-year forward did just that and made no mistake beating Post blocker side on a quick release.
The goal was Unrau's fourth of the year, while Devon Morrison got her first assist of the season, credited with the secondary assist breaking an eight-game pointless drought.
The T-Birds would continue to erase the flat-footed memories of the first period, as Unrau provided her second of the game, this time showcasing her shot from the point on the power play. The Humboldt, SK native went bar down on Post, with plenty of traffic out front, to double the 'Birds lead, at the time a 2-1 score line that would stand for the remainder of the period. Keeping the Pandas off the board was a cool and collected Langford, making 15 saves in the second period.
Saxvik erased any chance of a comeback at the 6:40 mark of the third tipping in a Sarah Casorso shot from the point making it a 3-1 hockey game, as the Thunderbirds converted on consecutive power plays. It was Casorso's team leading 12th point of the season while Unrau got the secondary assist, contributing on all three T-birds goals this evening.
A two goal cushion was more than enough for Langford, who finished with 27 saves on the evening while Post was not nearly as busy, stopping 11 of 14 shots. The Pandas went 1-for-5 on the power play while UBC finished 2-for-4.
"I can't give them enough credit, they're well disciplined, well coached, fast and skilled, the whole works and it's fun to play against them," added UBC bench boss Graham Thomas. "It pushes both teams, and with their skill level, we had to make some adjustments, which to give our team credit, we were able to execute tonight."
An afternoon matinee will close out the weekend series tomorrow at 2 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, with the T-Birds gunning for their second straight weekend sweep.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds