Jeremy Laurie/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - A 5-3 loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies (1-1) marked the UBC Thunderbirds women's hockey team's (1-1) first loss of their 2016-17 season. The Saturday afternoon contest at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre was the second of two weekend games between the teams, and the first Huskies victory over the T-Birds since October 2014.
Despite outshooting Saskatchewan 27-23 and a pair of goals from Cassandra Vilgrain, the 'Birds weren't able to recover from a weak first period performance. UBC had trouble staying out of the box in the opening frame, allowing veteran Huskies forward Kaitlin Willoughby to find the back of the Thunderbirds' net twice.
"We were in the box a lot [and] we've got to be more disciplined," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "When teams are on the power-play that much they're going to get a lot of shots."
Thomas sees the early-season loss as a learning experience, and a reminder that wins will not come easily in the highly competitive Canada West division.
"We weren't at our best. We [have] to learn, as a group, to take control and play a 60-minute game," he said.
Vilgrain, who has logged an impressive five points in her first two games as a Thunderbird, says her success so far can be attributed to a full-team effort.
"It's pretty easy to be successful on this team, we have so much depth. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out this game. I think we need to have a better start [and] we need to push back harder," she said.
Before the game, the Thunderbirds honoured their team co-founder and first head coach, Laura Bennion, with a ceremonial puck drop and jersey retirement.
Both of Willoughby's first period power-play goals were unassisted, with the second coming off a wrist shot that beat Boughn far side during a Huskies five-on-three.
A pair of late-period Huskies penalties gave the T-Birds a brief five-on-three opportunity to start off the second, but sturdy Saskatchewan defence stopped them from generating any scoring chances. Two minutes after returning to even strength, Alexa Ranahan fed the puck to Vilgrain who took off on a breakaway and roofed UBC's first of the game. Nicole Saxvik picked up an assist on the play, her third in two games.
A fortunate deflection off a UBC defender helped Brooke Patron catch Boughn off guard and net the Huskies' third less than a minute later. Vilgrain responded midway through the second when, sliding across the blue paint, she tucked the puck past Hendricks.
Huskies forward Rachel Johnson was awarded a penalty shot at 15:10 in the second. Her quick hands helped her slip the puck five-hole, giving Saskatchewan the 4-2 lead. Four minutes later, Kenzie Robinson dangled her way past a pair of Huskies defenders to bring UBC within one heading into the third.
Saskatchewan secured the lone goal of the final period when an awkward bounce landed on the tape of Elizabeth Salyn, who put in her team's fifth.
The Thunderbirds will enjoy another weekend on home ice when they host the Calgary Dinos on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15 at 7 p.m. (PT) and 3 p.m. (PT) respectively.
The Huskies will host Alberta that same weekend during their first home games of the regular season.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds