FH: Thunderbirds and Vikes open Canada West season with 2-2 tie

FH: Thunderbirds and Vikes open Canada West season with 2-2 tie

Wilson Wong, UBC Thunderbirds

VANCOUVER – The seven-time defending national champion UBC Thunderbirds and the Victoria Vikes tied 2-2 Saturday in Vancouver to open the 2018 Canada West women's field hockey season.

UBC jumped out to a 2-0 lead in head coach Poonam Sandhu's debut with the Thunderbirds, but the visiting Vikes responded with a pair of a second-half goals to leave Wright Field with a draw.

"I think they played well, we had a game plan and followed through," remarked Sandhu. "There are obviously things we need to improve on but for the most part, they came out strong. When we play UVic, the games are physical, but our players had a good showing and played smart."

In addition to Sandhu on the sidelines, two players, Alix Vanry and Izzy Fraser, made their Canada West debuts on the field.

"They were awesome," said Sandhu. "Alix stepped brilliantly in the forward line, she usually plays in the midfield line but is doing well up there. Izzy is just a force in the middle. They're in the right spots, working hard, and doing the right things."

The schools also gained a point each in the standings for the Legends Cup, the new rivalry series between the athletic programs. It is the first point for Victoria after UBC gained wins in women's soccer and women's rugby earlier this month.

On Saturday, the hosts got off to a perfect start, controlling possession from the opening whistle before scoring in the fourth minute as Abbey MacLellan knocked home a loose ball in a goalmouth scramble to put UBC up 1-0.

Victoria's best first-half chance came in the 21st minute when Lindsay Cole fired a shot just over the crossbar from the top of the circle.

The Vikes continued to build momentum. After Fleming stopped a spinning backhanded shot from UBC's Emily Martin, Victoria earned three corners in a two-minute span. On the second of the three, Anna Mollenhauer's opportunity from the left wing forced Thunderbirds 'keeper Rowan Harris to make a left pad save.

UBC went on the offensive after the third corner. Thora Rae raced up the right side and passed the ball across the face of the goal to Niki Best who one-timed the ball into the net in the 26th minute.

The visitors got on the scoreboard in the 52nd minute when Sam McCrory converted on a penalty stroke. She was able to just get the ball past Harris, who dove to her right.

Just seven minutes later, the Vikes struck again. Rookie Erin Dawson deflected a sharp-angle pass in from the left wing into the net to level the score at 2-2.

"It was nice to be on the side and allow everyone to execute their tasks on the field especially since we know what our game plan is," said Sandhu of her first U SPORTS and Canada West contest as a head coach. "It was definitely exciting to get this game under the belt."

Victoria head coach Lynne Beecroft, who began her 35th season in the position today, praised the attitude of her players.

"We have a very young team, we have some fifth-year players, but we have nine or 10 kids who are third-year and under so I think for them to stay composed after being down 2-0, you can actually just sort of turtle and not think you can have anything to do in the second half because you're already down, you're never going to catch up, so I think the composure was huge," she said.

"Overall, we played a better game together in the second half, and we capitalized on our opportunities. In the first half, I think we had the chances and we just didn't capitalize."

The teams will play again Sunday morning at 11 a.m., at Wright Field.

UVic 0-2 -- 2
UBC 2-0 -- 2

First half
4' – UBC – No. 19 Abbey MacLellan, FG – 1-0 UBC
26' – UBC – No. 6 Niki Best, FG – 2-0 UBC

Second half
52' – UVic – No. 17 Sam McCrory, PS – 2-1 UBC
56' – UVic – No. 15 Erin Dawson, FG – 2-2

UVic – Robin Fleming, 70 MP, 2 GA
UBC – Rowan Harris, 70 MP, 2 GA

17' – UBC – No. 15 Izzy Fraser, GC
38' – UVic – No. 13 Lindsay Cole, GC
45' – UBC – No. 15 Izzy Fraser, YC

PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds