Jeremy Laurie (UBC Thunderbirds)
VANCOUVER – The No. 10 Regina Cougars (11-9-4-1) moved back to within a point of first place in the Canada West women's hockey standings after a 3-2 victory over the No. 9 UBC Thunderbirds (12-7-4-2) Saturday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.
Fresh off a 3-0 shutout over the Cougars the night prior, the T-Birds were hoping for a winning weekend. Despite ample offensive pressure and a dominant third period performance, the 'Birds weren't able to sneak a crucial third goal past Regina goaltender Toni Ross, who had 24 saves on the night. UBC goalie Danielle Dube (New Westminster, B.C.), who logged her third shutout of the season on Friday, made 17 saves.
Regina defender Jolene Kirkpatrick was responsible for the game's opening goal just over a minute into the second period. Meghan Sherven added the second just 22 seconds later. Alexis Larson logged the game winner during a power play late in the third.
UBC's Logan Boyd (Waterdown, Ont.) netted her eighth of the season, and Mathea Fischer's (Oslo, Norway) second period goal brought her weekend total to three points.
A pre-game ceremony honoured graduating T-Birds players Rebecca Unrau (Humboldt, Sask.), Cailey Hay (Oakbank, Man.) and goaltenders Samantha Langford (Pense, Sask.), Laura Taylor (Kelowna, B.C.) and Dube for their academic and athletic achievements.
UBC head coach Graham Thomas acknowledged how important the veteran T-Birds players are to the organization.
"It's an emotional time. It's a memorable group," he said. "They've given a lot to the program. We wanted to celebrate that, and [want to] play as long as we can for them."
Thomas felt his team played well on Saturday night and hopes to see similar drive and determination when the Thunderbirds face Manitoba next weekend.
"I was really impressed with our pushback in the second after we went down [by] two goals. There's a lot of good takeaways."
UBC was awarded the game's first power play at 8:10 in the first, but weren't able to navigate their way through well-organized Regina defenders. The Birds' only managed two shots on net, which were easily gobbled up by Cougars goaltender Toni Ross.
At 18:00 in the opening frame, Regina's Caitlin Dempsey squeaked between two UBC defenders and took off on a breakaway. Dempsey deked left, but Dube tracked her and kicked aside the wrister.
The Cougars finally managed to find a way past Dube early in the second. Regina's Kirkpatrick nabbed the first of her two goals off a sharp angled shot at 1:05. Just 22 seconds later, amidst a mad scramble in front of the UBC net, Sherven managed to roof the puck past Dube.
After three unsuccessful first period power plays the Birds' managed to get on the board during their first five-on-four of the second frame. Fischer planted herself to the side of the Cougars net and redirected a precision pass from Unrau at 6:23. Kelly Murray (Calgary) also recorded a helper on the play.
At 16:18 in the second a goal from Boyd tied things up at two apiece. Jenna Carpenter-Boesch (Gray, Sask.) found Celine Tardif (Parksville, B.C.), who fed a pass through traffic towards Boyd who was only inches from the blue paint and managed to tip the puck over top of Ross.
Ross came up big for the Cougars midway through the third, as UBC spent a considerable amount of time in Regina's zone. Even while shorthanded the Birds' found their way into Cougars territory. UBC's best chance came from Kathleen Cahoon (Calgary), who intercepted a pass and took off on a breakaway, but her backhand was kicked aside by Ross.
In the dying seconds of the UBC penalty kill, the Cougars secured the crucial go-ahead goal. At 16:32, a blast from Metz was tipped in by defender Larson, giving Regina a late-game 3-2 lead.
An icing call against Regina with 14 seconds remaining gave the T-Birds one final chance to tie things up, but a sprawling Ross pad save on Haneet Parhar (West Vancouver) in the crease with only two seconds left helped her team secure the 'W.'
UBC will look to stay atop the Canada West standings when they visit the Manitoba Bisons (12-12-2) next weekend for their final regular season games of 2015-16.
Regina will take on Saskatchewan (10-9-3-3) next weekend in a home-and-home series. Both teams will have a chance to win first place in the league and a first-round playoff bye.
IMAGE CREDIT: Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds