Stu Walters/UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds displayed their impressive depth en route to a third straight victory in handling the UBC Okanagan Heat 3-1 Saturday night at Thunderbird stadium.
T-Birds head coach Mike Mosher wasn't shy in rotating his squad on the second of back to back games to help secure a six-point weekend, changing six starters from the previous night's 2-0 win over Thompson Rivers Wolfpack.
It was the visitors who managed the best early chance in the third minute off a corner kick as Heat defender Shaun Pilcher connected on a powerful glancing header from seven yards out but UBC goalkeeper Jason Roberts was in great position to hoover it up near post.
13 minutes later it was the 'Birds that would open the scoring as midfielder Thomas Gardiner scored for a second straight night from a free kick. The freshman confidently depositing a well struck curling ball into the top left corner from 19 yards out past a diving UBCO goalie Nicholas Reitsma to make it 1-0 in the 16th minute.
In the 39th minute the T-Birds increased their lead to 2-0 thanks to a beautifully executed play beginning from the backline with Riley Pang's 45-yard-long through ball that found front runner Taio Marzalik's foot just beyond the Heat defence. Marzalik showed a silky touch in flicking it out of mid-air and passed the on rushing Reitsma in the UBCO net.
Just on the other side of the break UBC put the game out of reach as forward Kristian Yli Hietanen was sprung free down the left channel sprinting past a defender and with his left foot cut a hard shot across goal into the bottom right corner and a 3-0 lead in the 47th minute.
The Heat wouldn't go away quietly however, shortly thereafter in minute 57 the visitors made it 3-1 after capitalizing on a free kick from 25 yards out. A low and hard driven shot deflected off Forward Luke Warkentin to the right corner of UBC's goal after Roberts had already dived to his left. It would prove to be the final tally of the night as the T-Birds earned a third straight win on home turf while improving to 3-0-1 on the young season. The Heat suffered their second straight setback of the weekend after dropping a 4-3 decision against the UVic Vikes on Friday night.
"We got the three points and we gave some other guys the opportunity tonight," said UBC coach Mike Mosher. "We feel we have really good depth and the nature of this league with back to back games it was the right time inject new guys and I liked their response. The first half we're up 2-0 and on the other side of half we get the third right away which was good but I thought our final 25 minutes was a little disappointing. All told it was a good weekend with six points and we've created a bit of a buffer for ourselves four games in at the top of the table which is great."
The Pacific division leading T-Birds will look to extend their winning streak on the road next weekend visiting the Saskatchewan Huskies Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m. PT followed by a meeting with the Calgary Dinos Sunday, September 16 at 1 p.m. PT.
The UBCO Heat hope to bounce back with road games next weekend against Lethbridge on Saturday and Mount Royal on Sunday.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong/UBC Athletics