Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – A solid first period for the UBC Thunderbirds evaporated in the second as Luke Philp scored a natural hat trick, part of a four goal frame, that saw the No. 2 Alberta Golden Bears cruise to a 6-0 shutout win to complete the weekend sweep and clinch the season series.
The 'Birds (10-9-1) had their share of opportunities early in the final regular season meeting with the defending national champion Bears (16-3-1) with three power plays in the first period alone. But UBC failed to get any traction with the man advantage as they headed to the second in a scoreless tie.
"I thought we came out excellent, won the first period and deserved a bit better and then Luke Philp and their power play took the game over," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "We spent too much time in the box and lost the rhythm of the game and we just couldn't respond."
Alberta opened scoring for the second straight game, this time early in the second when Grayson Pawlenchuk earned his second of the weekend and ninth of the season. Rylan Toth made the initial save off a Sawyer Lange shot, but the rebound bounced off a UBC defenceman's stick and right to Pawlenchuk just 100 seconds in.
Things only got worse for the 'Birds from that point forward as the Canada West's leading scorer went to work. Philp scored his first of the game just past the five minute mark with a wicked wrister from high in the slot that beat Toth glove side, perfectly picking the top corner.
The Bears scored their first of two power play goals to take a 3-0 lead at the 12:18 mark when Philp found the same corner. Trevor Cox earned one of his three assists on the goal while Cole Sanford picked up the other helper.
Philp completed the natural hat trick five minutes later scoring on a shorthanded rush to give the visitors a 4-0 lead on his 15th of the season.
Patrick Dea played the final period in net for the T-Birds and was thrown right into the fire as the Bears began the third with more than three minutes remaining on a double minor penalty assessed to Austin Vetterl late in the second.
39 seconds in, Steven Owre deflected a Cox centring feed as the Bears just kept the pedal down. Sanford closed out the dominant offensive performance with his ninth of the season with seven minutes remaining, sweeping the loose puck past a sprawled Dea.
The win makes it five in a row for the Bears while the T-Birds drop their fourth straight to start 2019. UBC is now five points back of Mount Royal who holds down the fourth and final home playoff berth.
Alberta outshot the 'Birds 35-17 while finishing 2-for-6 on the power play. UBC failed to execute on four man advantages. Zach Sawchenko earned his 12th win and third shutout of the season for the Bears.
"When you don't get chances like in the second and third period, it was frustrating, it was tough to watch," added Butenshon. "Every team goes through it at some point during the season, we just have to keep working and keep grinding and figure it out."
The Golden Bears face the Mount Royal Cougars for a home-and-home series next weekend starting Friday in Edmonton. UBC now turns their focus to the Calgary Dinos who they'll host for the fifth annual Winter Classic Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds