Evan Daum, Canada West Communications
For the first time in program history, the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team will enjoy home ice advantage in the Canada West Final, as UBC welcomes the Manitoba Bisons and their playoff heroics to Vancouver.
It’s an intriguing head-to-head between two evenly matched squads – one who relishes the chance to play at home, the other keen to make the trip.
“We’re very excited and proud to be hosting the Canada West Final for the first time in program history,” UBC head coach Graham Thomas said. “The Canada West conference is extremely competitive and we feel any team could win the championship.”
“We feel honoured to have the opportunity to compete for another championship especially to do it in our arena and on our campus.”
The matchup with the Bisons marks the second time in as many seasons the two teams will square off in the conference playoffs, after the Herd downed the T-Birds in three games last year in the semis.
While UBC is excited for the opportunity to play at home, Manitoba isn’t complaining, as the Bisons have emerged as playoff road warriors this season, winning both their quarter-final and semifinal series away from Winnipeg.
Both Manitoba series required three games and overtime in the third and deciding game, as the Herd earned Game 3 wins over Saskatchewan – in a Canada West record game that lasted 139:02 – and Alberta to make it this far.
"I didn't see this playoff run coming. We received a confident boost at the end of the season when we played at UBC and still battling for a playoff spot and played well that weekend. We’ve worked off that effort into the post-season,” Manitoba head coach Jon Rempel said, referring to his teams split with UBC the final regular season weekend.
"We have been a good road team all year. We seem to play better and with more structure on the road with this team. It seems to help the group focus on the games."
It’s been an up and down season for the Bisons, who finished fifth during the regular season with a 13-13-0-2 mark, but have found their stride as of late.
“It took until the end of the regular season for the team to start clicking and get healthy,” Rempel pointed out.
“Our main issue was finishing. Defensively we were great all year and now in the playoffs, we’re seeing the timely goals go in.”
The Bisons hope those timely goals keep coming this weekend against a UBC team they split the regular season series against, picking up a pair of wins and two losses against.
Canada West Women’s Hockey Final schedule (best-of-three)
Friday, March 4
Manitoba at UBC / 7:00 PM PST / CW Final Game 1
Saturday, March 5
Manitoba at UBC / 7:00 PM PST / CW Final Game 2
Sunday, March 6
Manitoba at UBC / 3:00 PM PST / CW Final Game 3 (if necessary)
Catch all the action on Canadawest.tv