Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds saw their four-game win streak snapped while the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns ended a four-game losing skid with a 3-0 shutout win at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre Friday night.
The Pronghorns (5-9-1) played simple and smart while clogging up their own zone and shutting down UBC's (9-6-0) offence as goaltender Garret Hughson made 30 saves for his first Canada West shutout.
"I was very impressed with their structure, their grit and determination," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "Any pucks along the boards, they were fierce, they were mean, they were strong and they won all those little battles. Even if we did get a chance or two we couldn't get to the rebounds. Kudos to those guys, they limited their mistakes and we made two and they ended up in our net."
It wasn't that the T-Birds didn't have their chances throughout the game. UBC managed several odd man rushes and quality scoring opportunities but if Hughson wasn't making a solid save, pucks were sent wide of the goal or the 'Horns managed to break up plays in what was a solid team defensive performance.
"We know how valuable he is, this is his third year and to finally have (a shutout) is nice for him, it was a good win for him," said Lethbridge head coach Murray Nystrom of his veteran goaltender.
The 'Birds outshot the Pronghorns 11-7 in the first period but the two teams entered the second frame deadlocked at zeros.
It was 37 minutes until Lethbridge finally opened scoring on a quick passing play right off a faceoff in the T-Birds' zone. After UBC won the draw, the puck bounced off a leg and was picked up by Justin Valentino who quickly centred to Ryan Chynoweth who slipped it past Rylan Toth for his fourth of the season.
The game remained a one-goal affair until the 13:44 mark of the third when the Pronghorns doubled their lead off a T-Bird turnover. Connor Sanvido grabbed the puck right at the side of the crease and tucked it into the open cage.
UBC put Toth on the bench for the extra attacker with three minutes remaining, but it didn't take long for the visitors to hit the empty net. Valentino launched the puck from well within his own zone and hit the open six-by-four dead centre for his third of the season, solidifying Lethbridge's first win in three weeks.
"We've been playing pretty well of late, maybe not getting the results we wanted but I thought tonight we really limited their opportunities," added Nystrom. "We want to make plays but sometimes the right play is just getting the puck out of the zone and I thought at the right times we were making those decisions."
Despite the loss, the 'Birds remain in fourth place in the conference heading into Saturday, but now just one point up on fifth place Mount Royal. The Pronghorns have moved six points ahead of both Manitoba and Regina.
The 'Birds will go for the weekend split in Saturday's rematch, the final game of 2018, with a chance to enter the holiday break on a high note. The 'Birds will also get a boost from the return of Chase Clayton.
"He's a guy who skates hard every shift, finishes his checks," explained Butenschon of the gritty forward. "He's relentless on the forecheck, he's going to insert energy and create turnovers for his linemates. He's going to be a big factor in tomorrow's game for sure."
Puck drop at Father Bauer Arena is 1:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds