Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Austin Vetterl's red hot stick combined with another solid performance in net by Rylan Toth saw the UBC Thunderbirds earn a weekend sweep over the visiting Mount Royal Cougars with a 2-1 win Saturday afternoon at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Down by a goal well into the third period, the 'Birds rallied, scoring twice within a six-minute span to improve to 4-0 on the campaign, UBC's best start to a season since 1989-90.
After a fast-paced game Friday night full of scoring chances at both ends of the ice, the first period Saturday saw a bit of a slow start. Both teams had two power play opportunities in the frame but neither were able to generate much by way of scoring chances.
Scoreless well into the second, the Cougars got on the board first when Connor Chartier tucked the puck just under the bar for his second of the season. Colton Kroeker picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fed it to Chartier who went in on a late breakaway, beating Toth glove side.
"We were definitely not ready to play mentally, not engaged enough and probably got away with coming out of the first period 0-0," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "In the second period we started to turn it on, had an amazing 12 minutes, maybe the best 12 minutes we had all year but didn't get rewarded and I was a little disappointed we didn't just stick to the game plan. We had a good conversation in the dressing room and it was great to see how we played after that."
The visitors' lead held up for nearly a full 20 minutes until the T-Birds' fourth power play chance of the game. It took UBC just 36 seconds to execute on a quick passing play that saw Vetterl finish in front of the net for his fourth of the season. Tyler Sandhu fed the puck across the ice to Steven Hodges who quickly passed it to Vetterl for the deflection past Colin Cooper to tie the game eight minutes into the final period.
While UBC was the stronger team for good stretches in the final two periods, the Cougars had plenty of scoring chances in the final 20 minutes, but Toth was up to the task picking up where he left off the night before finishing with 25 saves for his third win of the season.
The game winner came with just under six minutes remaining when Jerret Smith blasted the puck from the blue line. Vetterl was being forced out of the slot but still managed to get his outstretched stick onto the puck for the perfect deflection for his second of the game.
Mount Royal pulled Cooper for the extra attacker and had a late 6-on-4 power play chance but the 'Birds held on for the home opening series sweep.
"Mount Royal is a really good team, they're a tough out," added Butenschon. "They're always well coached and organized. For us to be able to play a solid hockey game two nights in a row is nice to see as a coach."
UBC outshot the Cougars 35-26 and finished the game 1-for-4 on the power play while killing off all four MRU chances. The 'Birds have now scored at least one power play goal in each of their four games to start the season while killing 17 straight penalties.
The 'Birds are back on the road next weekend to face the Calgary Dinos Friday and Saturday while the Cougars face the defending national champion Alberta Golden Bears for a home-and-home series.
PHOTO: Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds