Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – In a playoff type atmosphere in front of a capacity crowd at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, the UBC Thunderbirds battled back against the Calgary Dinos to force overtime, but Dane Gibson's ninth of the season handed the visitors a fourth straight win while the 'Birds dropped their fifth in a row to start 2019.
It was a frenetic, incredible scene at Point Grey as 5,766 fans nearly took the roof off the building when Michael Stenerson tied the game at two late in the third period on the power play. Jerret Smith fired the puck towards the net from the blue line and Austin Vetterl deflected it just wide, but Stenerson pounced on the loose puck, getting it past a sprawled Jordan Papirny for his fourth of the season with just under six minutes remaining in regulation.
But the Dinos didn't take long to earn their first overtime win of the season. Gibson was left alone in the slot, receiving a pass from James Shearer in the corner, and the Dino defenceman roofed the puck over Rylan Toth's glove side shoulder to clinch the season series over the T-Birds.
"I liked our start, I liked the way we came back after getting scored against, we responded really well," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "Special teams were very good. Calgary is a big, strong, hardworking team and you just have to make sure you work as hard as the guy going against you."
The Dinos outshot the 'Birds in every period for a 31-20 edge in total. UBC won the special teams battle, finishing 1-for-3 on the power play while the T-Birds killed off all three Calgary man advantages.
Calgary disappointed the rabidly pro-Thunderbirds crowd to open scoring at the 8:32 mark of the first period with Riley Sheen's first of two on the night. The third-year forward sniped his 13th of the season from Graham Black and Ryan Graham as the Dinos held the one-goal advantage into the second period.
Smith gave the packed house a chance to get on their feet when he tied the game seven minutes into the second with his eighth of the season. Stenerson carried the puck into the Calgary zone along the left wing side and looked to get the puck to Vetterl at the top of the crease but it found its way to a streaking Smith who tapped it into an open cage.
The Dinos re-took their lead just five minutes later, however, when Sheen struck again. Shearer played the puck across the ice to Sheen who was waiting for the back-door feed, just getting it over Toth's glove.
UBC pressed hard in the final period and got rewarded with the late power play chance that led to Stenerson's tying marker. But for the second time in the last three games, the 'Birds were forced to settle for the single point.
"It was a good character third period, we were down by one, found a way to tie the game up, very similar to last week against Alberta," added Butenschon who liked his team's effort and resilience against the Dinos. "We're learning a lot here, we're putting together bits and pieces of the game and we just have to come here tomorrow with the mindset to play for 60 minutes the right way. I think we're due to get some bounces, we're working real hard, we're trying with everything we got, I think eventually good things will happen."
The T-Birds did inch a bit closer to fourth-place Mount Royal who fell to Alberta Friday night, but UBC remains four points behind the final home playoff berth. The Dinos win keeps them six back of the second-place Golden Bears.
UBC will get one final crack at the Dinos when the two meet for the last time this regular season on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre is 2:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds