Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – It was a wild affair with a combined 23 power plays as the UBC Thunderbirds (12-4-1-2) skated to a 4-2 victory over the visiting Regina Cougars (6-10-1-2) Friday night at Father Bauer Arena on the T-Birds' mental health awareness night.
The 'Birds scored four times on the power play, two of them from rookie Emily Costales, while Tory Micklash turned aside 20 shots for her ninth win of the season as UBC leapfrogged into first place in the conference with their third straight win to start 2018.
UBC got out to a quick start scoring twice on the man advantage five mintues apart to stake out a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the first. Hannah Clayton-Carroll fired the puck from the slot for her Canada West leading tenth goal of the season from Costales and Mathea Fischer.
Then on their third power play of the period, Costales scored her first of two on the night, finishing a Cassandra Vilgrain feed with a beautiful backhand shot for her fifth of the season at the 10:22 mark.
The Cougars got on the board with a power play goal of their own with two and a half minutes left in the frame when Jaycee Magwood beat Micklash for her fifth of the season.
UBC had a whopping eight power plays in the second period alone and capitalized on two of them to open up a 4-1 lead. Costales scored her second of the game five minutes in when she deflected a Madison Patrick shot to restore the T-Birds' two goal lead.
Patrick then got one herself at the 15:37 mark firing the puck from a sharp angle past Regina goaltender Jane Kish for her second of the season from Alexa Ranahan and Fischer, giving the 'Birds a 4-1 lead.
The Cougars made things a little more interesting with three and a half minutes remaining in the third when Merissa Zerr brought the visitors within two. Just after exiting the penalty box with UBC still on the power play, the second-year forward was sprung on a shorthanded breakaway and slipped the puck past Micklash for her first of the season.
Regina pulled Kish for the extra attacker a minute later while on a power play only to have UBC take another penalty giving the visitors a 6-on-3 advantage. But the 'Birds' penalty kill came up strong as UBC held on to hand the Cougars a fourth straight loss.
UBC outshot Regina 33-21 and finished the game 4-for-15 on the power play. The Cougars went 1-for-10.
Thanks to a Manitoba loss to Saskatchewan earlier Friday, UBC's win vaults them into first place in the conference, two points ahead of the Bisons.
The 'Birds and Cougars battle for the final time this regular season on Saturday as UBC tries to make it four wins in a row to begin the new year. Puck drop at Father Bauer is 2:00 p.m. PT.
PHOTO: Bob Frid, UBC Thunderbirds