Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds officially clinched a Canada West playoff berth while earning their first win of 2019 thanks to Michael Stenerson's double overtime winner Saturday afternoon for the 4-3 decision over the Calgary Dinos at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
It marked the first win for the 'Birds over the Dinos this season while Calgary saw their four-game win streak snapped.
Much like the night before, Saturday's final regular season meeting between the two rivals was tight throughout while special teams played a major factor.
The T-Birds held a 3-2 lead late in the third period, but the Dinos were awarded their third power play of the game with just over a minute remaining. With Matthew Greenfield on the bench for the 6-on-4 advantage, it was Dylan Busenius whose blast from the point with 8.7 seconds remaining forced overtime for the second straight game.
But unlike the night before, this time it was the 'Birds who would come out on top. UBC had several tremendous chances in 4-on-4 but couldn't solve Greenfield while Patrick Dea stood strong at the other end of the ice, finishing the game with 22 saves for his fourth win of the season.
Just over a minute into 3-on-3, Stenerson stole the puck off Riley Sheen along the boards in the neutral zone. The fifth-year forward then raced into the offensive zone on a two-on-one with Tyler Sandhu. Stenerson held the puck and beat Greenfield high, glove side for his fifth of the season and fourth point on the weekend.
"We wanted it real bad, we played a great game," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon who sees his team clinch a playoff berth for the third straight season under his guidance. "It's a good league, (Calgary's) a good team, there are no easy games and they proved it at the end, they battled hard too. Mike Stenerson ends up scoring the overtime goal after last night he was on the ice when they scored the overtime goal so great to see Mike get the job done."
For the second straight game, Calgary opened scoring, this time late in the opening frame. Jared Hauf notched his first of the season with just over 90 seconds remaining when he roofed the puck on a backhand shot. Sheen and Ryan Graham picked up the helpers.
The 'Birds broke Greenfield's shutout streak early in the second as Adam Rossignol beat the Calgary netminder for the first time in 207 minutes with his fourth of the season on the power play. The veteran forward deflected a Joe Carvalho shot at the 6:49 mark to tie the game at one.
UBC took their first lead of the game with just under five minutes remaining in the period when Quentin Greenwood pounced on a rebound for his third of the season. Stenerson picked up steam through the neutral zone while taking a pass from Carter Popoff and split past the Dinos' defence. His backhander was stopped by Greenfield but Greenwood was johnny on the spot and slammed the puck into the open net.
The Dinos tied the game again at the 7:38 mark of the third when Jordan Henderson blasted a slap shot through traffic and past Dea for his first of the season.
It looked for a while like overtime loomed until Matt Revel struck on the power play with just under five minutes left. From the bottom of the left circle, Revel fired a low shot that bounced off Greenfield's stick, off his shoulder and into the back of the net for his third of the season. Carvalho picked up his second point of the game on the goal while Austin Glover also earned a helper.
Overtime did in fact loom anyhow after Busenius' late power play marker, but the T-Birds made sure the Dinos didn't come away with the weekend sweep while both teams finish the series with three out of a possible four points.
UBC went an impressive 2-for-4 on the power play while the Dinos finished 1-for-3. The 'Birds outshot Calgary by a 35-25 margin.
"We brought some of the belief back," added Butenschon. "When you lose a bunch of games in a row and you have trouble scoring, you have to believe, you have to stay positive and remain mentally tough. In the second period I think we proved it to ourselves that if we play the right way we're going to get rewarded."
Next up for the T-Birds is a visit to Saskatoon to face the Canada West leading Saskatchewan Huskies next Friday and Saturday. Calgary returns home to face the Mount Royal Cougars for a home-and-home series that includes the annual Crowchild Classic.
PHOTO: Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds