Kenneth Pittman / UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Forward Kathleen Cahoon scored at 15:55 of the third overtime period to give the third-seeded UBC Thunderbirds a dramatic 2-1 victory over the visiting Mount Royal Cougars in Game 1 of their Canada West quarter-final series Friday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center.
Tiffany Chiu took possession of a loose puck behind the MRU net, and then backhanded a pass into the slot, where Cahoon one-timed a shot off the goalpost to the right of Cougar goaltender Zoe De Beauville. The puck bounced right back to Cahoon, who was able to tap it into the open net to give her team the triumph in the third-longest game in Canada West women's hockey history.
The only contests to go longer were the five-overtime matchup - with 79:02 of extra time - between Manitoba and Saskatchewan on Feb. 21, 2016, and the Mar. 1, 2014 contest between Regina and Saskatchewan that only ended after 62:30 of overtime.
"We had a lot of chances throughout the game, so to finally sneak one past her, was a great feeling," Cahoon said of her game-winning goal past De Beauville, who made 33 saves in just under 116 minutes of work.
"We started battling a lot harder and played a simpler game and we just believed," UBC head coach Graham Thomas said of his team's effort.
Brielle Bellerive scored UBC's first goal, while Tory Micklash, who was stellar in net, allowing only one goal on 25 shots, led the team on the back end.
Reanna Arnold recorded MRU's lone goal.
Both teams seemed to be battling playoff nerves in the first period, as each side managed to register one shot on net in the first 10 minutes. With just under 13 minutes gone in the opening frame, the 'Birds were able to get on the scoreboard thanks to UBC forward Bellerive, as she received a beautiful pass from Cassandra Vilgrain and redirected puck past Cougars goaltender De Beauville, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
"This group responded to a little bit of a rip from the coaching staff, and they ended up calming down and playing their own game," Thomas said of how his team handled the nerves that comes with the post-season.
The second period was a relatively quiet one, with minimal scoring chances for both teams. After a UBC cross checking penalty with just over 14 minutes gone in the frame, the Cougars were able to tie the game up after forward Arnold slid the puck past Micklash. Arnold converted on her own rebound cutting across the crease after she took the puck to the net on a great individual effort to get her initial chance.
The goal pumped energy back into the Cougars bench.
They continued to push the pace early in the third period as they peppered Micklash with shot after shot. The second-year goalie was up to the challenge as she turned away every opportunity. In the 12yh minute of the period, the 'Birds were able to get another puck past De Beauville, but due to a 'Birds player in the crease the goal was waved off. Similar to when these teams last squared off on February 2, 60 minutes was not enough to determine a winner, as the 'Birds headed to overtime for a third-straight time.
The first overtime period solved nothing for either team. UBC outshot the visitors in the frame, but De Beauville, like she has been all year, stood tall in net for the Cougars.
In the second overtime frame, MRU came out fast. The best scoring chance came after just 3:22 elapsed in the period, a centering pass deflected off UBC defender Celine Tardif right onto the stick of Rachel Piitz, who missed the empty net wide left. Both teams exchanged chances, but alas, it was not meant to be, as the game remained tied at one after 90 minutes.
Both teams will be back in action tomorrow for Game 2 of their quarter-final series, with puck drop scheduled for 3 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
When asked what the focus will be moving into tomorrow, Thomas said, "We will enjoy this for 20 minutes then put it behind us, because tomorrow is a pivotal game."
PHOTO: Bob Frid / UBC Thunderbirds