Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Rookie forward Maxwell James stayed red hot for the UBC Thunderbirds scoring twice including the game winner Friday night in a 2-1 victory over the visiting Regina Cougars at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Rylan Toth made 21 saves for his sixth win of the season while the 'Birds (8-5-0) have now won three straight, handing the Cougars (2-10-1) their seventh consecutive loss in the process.
"We played a smarter game than we did in Manitoba, we just couldn't finish tonight, their defence and goaltending did a really nice job boxing us out," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon who was pleased with his team's effort once again. "Overall our game was solid, very business like."
After James scored twice in the second period, it looked as if UBC would take the 2-0 lead into the final frame, but Regina defenceman Tyler King scored his team leading fourth of the season past a screened Toth in the final minute to make for an interesting third.
After outshooting the Cougars by a 30-10 margin through the first two periods, the visitors put 12 pucks towards Toth in the final 20 minutes. But the second-year goaltender stood tall while the 'Birds hung on for yet another gutsy performance.
UBC controlled the pace of play for the entire first period, dominating the shot clock 16-5, but a standout performance by Regina goaltender Dawson MacAuley kept the game scoreless through the opening 20 minutes.
The 'Birds picked up right where they left off to start the second, and finally got rewarded at the 3:59 mark with James' first of two on the night. Tyler Sandhu broke past a pair of Regina forwards in the neutral zone and dished the puck to James who unleashed a rocket of a wrister just underneath the bar for his sixth of the season.
With just over four minutes remaining in the period, Sandhu and James hooked up again with a nearly identical result. Sandhu grabbed the puck at the Regina blue line and passed to James who this time was on the right side of the slot. The big winger then again fired a wicked shot under the bar for his fifth goal in the last three games.
"His size, his physicality, his shot is unreal right now," said Butenschon of his star rookie forward. "His habits are great, he passes hard, he makes the right plays. It's not just the goals for him right now, he's playing a complete game."
Special teams weren't much of a factor Friday night as the 'Birds went 0-for-3 on the power play but limited the Cougars to just one man advantage which UBC killed off.
The 'Birds started the game with just 10 forwards and finished with nine after Quentin Greenwood left following the second period.
UBC's four game home stand continues Saturday afternoon with a rematch against the Cougars. Puck drop at Doug Mitchell is set for 2:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds