Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The No. 10 UBC Thunderbirds struck first in the Canada West quarter-final with a 4-1 win over the visiting Calgary Dinos Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Staking themselves out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the second period, the 'Birds withstood a late onslaught by the Dinos to hang on for the all important 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
The Dinos finally got on the board midway through the third when Riley Sheen let a slap shot go from the top of the circle on the power play. Calgary rode the wave of momentum continuing to buzz in the T-Birds' zone for the next several shifts but three minutes later UBC restored the three-goal lead.
Austin Glover stole the puck in the neutral zone and fed it to Adam Rossignol who came into the Dinos' zone on a 2-on-1 with Popoff. Rossignol returned the feed across as Popoff backhanded the puck into a wide open cage for his first of the post-season.
Matt Hewitt made 17 saves in the third period alone and 43 overall for the win between the pipes while picking up first star honours.
Both teams finished 1-for-5 on the power play.
The first period started with a bang as both teams continually laid the body with several big hits.
UBC opened scoring 8:52 into the opening frame when Matt Revel shoveled a loose puck off a goal mouth scramble past Calgary's Jordan Papirny and into the back of the net. Austin Vetterl and Michael Stenerson picked up the helpers as the 'Birds carried the one goal lead into the break.
After killing off a Kyle Becker roughing minor midway through the second, the defenceman was fed a beautiful stretch pass from Riley Guenther to come in on Papirny on a clear breakaway. Becker made no mistake shooting stick side to give the 'Birds a 2-0 lead with seven minutes remaining in the period.
Calgary pressed hard looking to get on the board before the break but instead it was Revel finding the loose puck in the crease and roofing it for his second of the game from Vetterl and Stenerson as all three finished with two-point games. The goal came with just five seconds left in the frame giving the 'Birds a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Dinos went to their fifth power play of the game with six minutes remaining but some clutch T-Bird penalty killing kept UBC up by three.
Game two of the best-of-three series goes Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT. The 'Birds are looking to advance to the Canada West semi finals for the first time since the 2014-15 season. A Calgary win would force a third and deciding game which is scheduled for Sunday at 5:30 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds