By Tim Huebsch (UBC Sports Information Assistant)
VANCOUVER – The No. 4-ranked UBC Thunderbirds fell victim to a scoring barrage by the Alberta Pandas in a 4-2 loss in Canada West women's hockey on Saturday afternoon. It was the first time since November 24, 2012 that UBC has lost a home game regulation. The Thunderbirds had gone 29 games without losing in regulation time, posting a record of 25-0-4.
A night after Alberta scored the first goal before conceding three unanswered, the No. 3 Pandas returned the favor this afternoon, exploding for three goals in the first, before adding one more in the third.
On an afternoon that honored a trio of Thunderbirds with 100-plus CIS career regular season games, Kelly Murray made Saturday a game to remember scoring her first CIS goal early in the first. Alberta's Amy Helfrich erased that lead for the Pandas before Alison Campbell potted a natural hat trick, in the process chasing UBC goalie Samantha Langford in the first. Logan Boyd scored midway through the third to cut the deficit to 4-2, but that would be it in terms of scoring.
The Alberta Pandas improve to 8-4-0 and erase the three-point advantage the T-Birds gained yesterday, now just one point back of UBC, which fall to 8-2-2.
"As a collective unit, we weren't able to execute our game plan this afternoon with the full buy-in," added UBC bench boss Graham Thomas. "It was nice to see our team make a push at the end, and show determination but we can't wait until the last minute to execute."
Neither coach showed any hesitancy going back to their starters as Langford and Lindsey Post led their teams onto the ice, with less than 24 hours rest. Langford, who started her 11th straight game, made just three saves on six shots as Danielle Lemon made nine saves in relief.
Post bounced back this afternoon making 21 saves on 23 shots in her 12th consecutive start after making just 11 saves on 14 shots last night.
The Pandas did themselves no favors early on, giving the nation's highest scoring power play unit a 1:10 two-man advantage less than 10 minutes into the game. From the top of the faceoff circle, Murray riffled one over Post's shoulder, as the Thunderbirds now have a whopping 18 power play goals on the year. Celine Tardif and Rebecca Unrau got the helpers, as Unrau extended her season-high point streak to seven games.
The goal was Murray's first as a Thunderbird, having already collected seven assists on the season, in her first season with the T-Birds after transferring from NCAA Division I Cornell University. Murray's goal was one of just two shots in the frame managed by the Thunderbirds.
The Pandas responded three minutes later when Helfrich walked in on Langford going to the backhand and sliding the puck between the legs of the UBC goaltender, who was caught a bit deep in her net.
Alberta continued to reverse the script in the first, scoring two more unanswered just as the T-Birds did a night before, thanks to a pair of goals from Campbell, on near identical plays. Campbell's first, to go up 2-1, beat Langford after the forward walked in off a pass from Natasha Steblin and fired a quick wrister from the right hash mark.
The second of the two goals, which marked the end of Langford's night, came off a shot from the slot, as the UBC starter made way for Lemon, who made her first appearance since starting the season's opening game on October 3. It was the first time this season the T-Birds have conceded three goals in the opening period of play.
Campbell completed the hat trick at the 4:48 mark of the third period thanks to a quick snap shot right off an offensive zone faceoff win by Tess Houston to give the visitors a 4-1 advantage. The only other occasion this season where the T-Birds allowed four goals was on opening night.
Midway through the third, Thomas would pull a play out of Patrick Roy's repertoire, pulling the goalie at the 8:56 mark of the third, to get a sixth skater on for a T-Birds power play. The move worked, as Boyd roofed one from the doorstep, leaving Post no chance on the shot cutting the deficit to 4-2.
The T-Birds would pull their goalie for the third time with 1:30 to play, but Alberta's two-goal cushion would remain in tact through to the final whistle.
"I know Sam would have wanted to have a couple of those goals back today, but she'll bounce back," said Thomas in regards to Langford, who has been stellar in net all season. "She's in phenomenal shape so there was no question going into the game this afternoon."
UBC had plenty of power play opportunities in the latter two periods including a four-minute double minor for spearing but managed just to go just 2-for-10 on the power play. Alberta finished 0-for-3.
UBC embarks on the team's final road trip of 2014 next weekend travelling to Winnipeg for a weekend series against the Manitoba Bisons, who were swept this weekend by the Calgary Dinos.
The Dinos and Pandas will meet in a home-and-home series next weekend.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds