Jeremy Laurie (UBC Athletics)
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team (7-6-2-2) were shutout by the visiting Mount Royal Cougars (7-7-2-1) on Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
The 2-0 defeat was UBC's third goalless game in its last five. The Cougars secured their first shutout since October and have now been victorious in five of their last six matchups.
Jessica Jenkins scored in the second period and Gabrielle Sepper added an empty-net goal.
UBC swept Mt. Royal in early October in Calgary, however, solid goaltending from Jessica Ross and a full team effort, which saw seven different players record multiple shots, gave the Cougars the edge they needed on Friday night.
Stingy defence on both ends forced both teams to rely on long blasts through traffic that were easily gobbled up by both Ross and UBC's Danielle Dube (New Westminster, B.C.).
Both teams weren't granting much open space for the other to capitalize on in the opening period. Only two shots apiece were registered in the first seven minutes.
The T-Birds drew a tripping call along the boards at 6:23, securing the only power play opportunity of the period. Despite several good scoring chances, they were unable to find a way past Ross.
The Thunderbirds found some late first-period momentum and spent over a minute straight in the Cougars zone, but weren't able to get on the scoreboard. Defenceman Celine Tardif (Parksville, B.C.) led the Thunderbirds with two of her team's seven shots in the opening period.
The Cougars were forced to the defensive early in the second period after taking a second penalty.
Kristen Toth's (Langley, B.C.) blast from the blue line found its way through traffic, but was kicked away by Ross. Strong defence helped Mount Royal survive the attack with only one shot on net by UBC.
Soon after their power play ended, the Thunderbirds took a charging penalty of their own after a three-player pileup behind the Cougars' net at 7:52.
Mount Royal took advantage and quickly pulled ahead to a 13-9 lead in shots on net. A sliding block from Nicole Saxvik(North Vancouver) kept the 'Birds afloat during the steady attack by the visiting side.
The Cougars were able to keep momentum in their favour following the UBC penalty, which led to their opening goal, midway through the second.
Patience and precision resulted in Jenkins' top corner goal off a feed from behind the net from Jordan Finnie.
UBC closed out the period trailing 1-0 with a 14-10 shot deficit.
Despite generating a series of meaningful scoring chances, including a slick individual efforts from Kathleen Cahoon (Calgary) that deflected high of the goaltender's stick, the 'Birds were unable to tie things up.
The Cougars also struggled to navigate their way to the net in the third. The majority of their third period shots came from outside the face-off circle and were easily kicked aside or gloved by Dube.
Dube was pulled with less than two minutes, giving UBC a six-on-five advantage. A mix up during UBC's offensive charge gave Cougars forward Sepper an opportunity to score the insurance goal from the blue line with 51 seconds to go.
Ross made 17 saves for her third win of the season, all of which have come via the shutout. Dube stopped 19 of the 20 shots she faced. Her goals-against average for UBC is a sparkling 1.52 so far this season.
The Thunderbirds will have chance at redemption tomorrow afternoon when they face Mount Royal in their final weekend matchup. The puck drops Saturday at 3 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds