Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – A five-goal third period explosion by the Manitoba Bisons (8-5-2) led to a 7-3 defeat for the UBC Thunderbirds (5-9-1) Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Tied at two after two periods the Thunderbirds were in fine position to make a push for their first win since October but the Bisons had other ideas scoring just 18 seconds into the final period and then again just over a minute later to take firm control.
The visitors scored two more just 24 seconds apart in the 13th minute of the period to stake themselves to a four-goal lead, eventually handing the T-Birds a seventh straight loss.
"It's as simple as execution for us right now, it's just not enough execution," said a frustrated UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "Once we got down one or two it kind of collapsed on us a bit but honestly it just felt like they were better at everything than us."
The first period was a wild one with a combined four goals, two of them shorthanded.
Brett Stovin opened scoring for the Bisons just 2:30 into the period with his second of the season and first of two on the night. But the 'Birds were able to quickly respond just 24 seconds later. Riley Guenther found Michael Stenerson streaking to the net and the fourth-year forward backhanded the puck past Manitoba goaltender Dasan Sydora for his sixth of the season.
The Bisons were sent to their first and only power play of the game eight minutes into the first but it was Stenerson who struck again with his second shorthanded tally of the year. Austin Vetterl freed the puck from the boards out to Stenerson who turned on the jets and put himself on a breakaway giving the 'Birds the 2-1 lead.
But the Bisons struck again with exactly two minutes remaining in the period when Stovin potted his second of the period as the game was tied at two heading to the break.
After a scoreless middle frame, the Bisons scored twice within the first 1:36 of the third to stun the 'Birds who had no answer.
With the Bisons already up 4-2, Zach Franko picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, carried it into the UBC end and dropped it back to Sean Christensen who beat Matt Hewitt over his glove. Just 14 seconds later, Liam Bilton one-timed a pass in the slot from Justin Augert for his third of the season to secure the Bisons' eighth win of the season.
After Manitoba scored again to take a five-goal lead, Riley Guenther sniped a shot from the low slot, far post and in for his second of the season from Austin Glover and Chase Clayton with a minute and a half remaining. But the damage had been done.
"They're a big and strong team," said Butenschon who emphasized the need to outwork a hardworking Manitoba team. "We had 30 shots tonight but I felt like (Sydora) saw everything. We couldn't get to rebounds, sometimes they were sitting there and their D boxed out and we had no chance."
The 'Birds outshot the Bisons in both the second and third periods while Manitoba finished the game with a 31-30 edge. Neither team made good on the power play as UBC went 0-for-4 while the Bisons failed to score on their only opportunity.
After the Pronghorns beat the Calgary Dinos Friday night, the 'Birds find themselves in a tie with Lethbridge for the sixth and final Canada West playoff spot.
UBC will try to end the 2017 schedule on a positive note with a win in Saturday's rematch which would also tie the season series between the two.
"Guys need to make plays," added Butenschon. "It's going to be a real test mentally too. It's going to take a complete team effort. They're not going to make it easy on you so we got to dig in, grind, and stick to a game plan."
Puck drop at Doug Mitchell is set for 2:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Rich Lam, UBC Thunderbirds