Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – After a frustrating 2-0 loss Friday night, the UBC Thunderbirds answered back with an exclamation mark Saturday with a 6-2 dominating win over the visiting Manitoba Bisons at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Chase Clayton completed his first career Canada West hat trick while Rylan Toth made 28 saves in net as the 'Birds conclude their final regular season home game in fine fashion.
The T-Birds dominated the game from start to finish, putting up a whopping 26 shots in the first period alone while scoring six times for the first time since their season opener in late September. UBC got two past Byron Spriggs within a four minute span in the first and never looked back, closing to within a single point of the Mount Royal Cougars for the fourth and final home playoff berth heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
"We came out and wanted to establish our game right away," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon who was very pleased with his team's performance start to finish. "We had a lot of zone time, a lot of shots on net, a lot of net front presence. It's stuff that we always talk about and try to do but today we were able to really implement it in our game."
UBC was an inspired group from the opening faceoff and that hard work paid off when Tyler Sandhu scored his fourth of the season at the 10:45 mark. The second-year forward lost the bouncing puck in the slot but Austin Glover quickly fed it back for Sandhu who scored the 'Birds' first goal in more than nine periods.
Clayton earned his first of the night and third of the season when he blasted the puck from the blue line while Carter Popoff provided traffic in front. Kyle Becker picked up the primary assist while Popoff was also credited with a helper.
The Bisons answered back early in the second period when Colton Veloso scored his second of the season finishing off a tic-tac-goal play just 2:30 into the frame to cut UBC's lead in half. But the 'Birds got momentum firmly back on their side 90 seconds later when Adam Rossignol restored the two-goal lead.
The fifth-year forward finished a two-on-one with Austin Vetterl, beating Spriggs stick side for his fifth of the season.
Still fighting for their playoff lives, the 'Birds knew the Bisons would come out swinging in the third. But it was UBC who added to their lead less than two minutes in with Clayton's second of the night, pouncing on a Raymond Grewal rebound. Jerret Smith picked up the second assist while Grewal earned his second point of the afternoon.
The Bisons showed their determination getting back within two at the 7:59 mark when Adam Henry scored his sixth of the season from Veloso and Brett Stovin.
Manitoba pulled Spriggs for the extra attacker with two minutes remaining and a faceoff in the UBC zone, but the 'Birds eventually got the puck out thanks to some excellent defensive work by Glover. Vetterl carried the puck up ice and Clayton finished off the hat trick.
Desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Bisons pulled Spriggs again but this time it was Colton Kehler who backhanded the puck from the Manitoba blue line into the open cage for his second of the season.
The 'Birds outshot the Bisons 43-30 and despite the goal scoring explosion, Toth was also tremendous in UBC's net picking up his eighth win of the season.
Clayton, Glover, Rossignol, Vetterl, and Grewal all finished with multiple points while 12 different UBC skaters found the scoresheet. All this despite the 'Birds only receiving one power play which was itself limited to 38 seconds. The Bisons finished the game 0-for-3.
"That's got to be how we play the rest of the year," insisted Butenschon. "We have to be able to do that every night if you want to consider yourself a contender. This has to spark something. Maybe it's proof that we can be a great team and achieve great things if we do the right things together, supporting each other."
The T-Birds close out the regular season next weekend in Regina, still in the hunt for a home playoff berth. The Bisons close out their campaign back at home against the Saskatchewan Huskies.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds