Jeff Sargeant/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds earned a 2-0 win in a hard-fought, defensive battle over the Saskatchewan Huskies to take a 1-0 lead in the Canada West semifinal Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Offence was at a premium all night as two of the conference's top goaltenders went toe-to-toe while neither team could generate much time in the offensive zone. Amelia Boughn made 14 saves for her first Canada West playoff shutout as the T-Birds are now within one more win of a second straight trip to the conference final.
"When (Boughn) was tested, she did her job and was right there, she gave us a chance to win and shut the door," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas.
"We had good blocks and good defensive coverage in front of her too."
Up by two goals by the early stages of the third period, the Thunderbirds continued to press putting up eight of their 19 shots in the final frame while the Huskies managed just three. One of those shots resulted in a tremendous cross-crease save by Boughn who denied Brooklyn Haubrich on a 2-on-1. The second-year forward took a perfect cross-ice feed and quickly released the puck toward the net but Boughn slid across for the highlight reel stop.
The Huskies put Cassidy Hendricks on the bench for the extra attacker with two minutes remaining but the T-Birds kept up their solid defensive play and didn't allow Saskatchewan to develop any real pressure.
"I give the girls full marks," said Thomas who was impressed with the level of grit the T-Birds brought Friday night.
"We changed our game a bit in practice, got a little bit more rugged and a little more battle ready and once we found out who we were playing we got a good game plan and they executed. We have an experienced group. They know what playoff hockey's all about, they know it's going to come down to one-on-ones and board battles and net front battles and loose puck races."
The T-Birds went 0-for-2 on the power play while killing off all three of Saskatchewan's man advantages.
Despite the low-scoring affair, it took just 7:31 into the first period for UBC to get on the board with Mathea Fischer's first of the post-season. Cassandra Vilgrain made a nice pass through the neutral zone to Nicole Saxvik whose shot was stopped by Hendricks. Fischer quickly pounced on the rebound to give the T-Birds the early lead.
The 'Birds doubled that lead at the 3:27 mark of the second on a bizarre play in the Huskies crease. Hendricks poked the puck away from Madison Patrick in tight and the puck bounced high in the air and landed behind the Saskatchewan goaltender before trickling over the line. Emily O'Neill and Vilgrain picked up the assists on Patrick's first career playoff goal.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is set for 7 p.m. PT Saturday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre as UBC can punch their ticket to the conference final for the third time in the last five years with a win. If the Huskies push the series to the distance, Game 3 will go Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds