Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds had their 2018-19 Canada West season opener spoiled by a tremendous goaltending performance as Lethbridge Pronghorns' netminder Alicia Anderson made 41 saves handing the 'Birds a 2-0 loss Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
The T-Birds outshot the Pronghorns 41-26 and put up 19 shots in the first period alone, but the fourth-year goaltender made terrific save after terrific save, frustrating UBC in their attempt to get on the scoreboard.
"They played a smart, defensive game in front of (Anderson) and did a lot of composed things at the end to shut us down and prevent us from getting momentum," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "Hats off to them, they played a solid team game and their goalie played really well."
Both Pronghorns goals came by way of the power play in the opening frame as they staked out the two-goal lead by the 14:00 mark. Despite six power play chances of their own, the 'Birds were unable to find the back of the net, dropping their season opener for the second straight season. As for the 'Horns, it was their second straight season opener with a victory, but their first win over UBC since 2016 and their first win in Vancouver since October 2015.
The game was marked by a parade to the penalty box for both sides. The 'Birds had six power play chances while the Pronghorns finished the game 2-for-7.
While on their second man advantage of the game just eight and a half minutes into the first, the 'Horns opened scoring on what would stand as the game winner when Tricia Van varenbergh pounced on a rebound at the side of the crease off an Eryn Johanson shot.
The visitors doubled their lead with exactly six minutes remaining in the frame when Kyra Greig took a feed from Katelyn Breitkreuz, beating UBC goaltender Amelia Boughn from the same spot.
It was all the offence the Pronghorns needed thanks to Anderson's heroics. The T-Birds pulled Boughn in the final minute but couldn't manage to generate anything at the other end of the ice.
"We just need the focus and belief that we have good shooters and skilled players and we can score and make those plays we need to make," added Thomas. "We still missed a lot of nets and missed a lot of golden opportunities so we have to be better in that area. But, we feel we have a lot of good things going on and it's going to click. A lot of it is getting back to it and being mentally tough and being ready to respond and go again tomorrow."
The 'Birds will push for the series split Saturday when the two rematch at 2:00 p.m. PT, once again at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds