Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER - Amy Boucher scored the only goal in a shootout Friday afternoon as the visiting Alberta Pandas ended the UBC Thunderbirds' five-game win streak with the 3-2 decision in front of a packed Father Bauer Arena.
After trading goals in the first period, the 'Birds (4-1-1-1) and Pandas (4-2-1-0) did the same in the third while heading to overtime for the fifth consecutive meeting between the two Canada West powerhouses.
Both teams had their chances through the two overtime frames but neither could get the puck across the line, that is until Boucher played the role of hero.
"That's a great team, these are the way these kind of games are going to be," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas on facing a perennial contender in the Pandas. "It was nice to see us step up our game, we just need to be consistent. It's good to see some character and resilience though as we didn't quit, we kept battling and competing so it's nice to see that come from our group."
The T-Birds struck first in front of the capacity crowd of local elementary students sending the building into a frenzy when Emily Costales scored her second of the season. Hannah Clayton-Carroll carried the puck into the Pandas zone on the left wing side, drove to the net and passed across to Costales for the one-timer into the gaping cage.
But the Pandas were able to respond before the period was out on a goal mouth scramble. Autumn MacDougall took a shot from a sharp angle that was stopped by UBC goaltender Amelia Boughn, but the puck bounced around at the top of the crease where Alex Gowie was quick to shove it into the back of the net for her first of the season with just 91 seconds remaining in the frame.
Following a scoreless second period, the Pandas took their first lead of the game at the 11:15 mark, late on a power play. Kennedy Ganser spun in the slot and fired a low shot that beat UBC goaltender Amelia Boughn glove side for her third of the season. MacDougall picked up the lone assist on the play as the fourth year forward finished with a two-point game.
But the Pandas' lead didn't last long as just over two minutes later Alberta committed a defensive zone turnover when Ireland Perrott intercepted a breakout pass. She dished it to Brie Bellerive who roofed the puck just under the crossbar for her first of the season.
The T-Birds went on the power play with four-and-a-half minutes left in the third and a terrific opportunity to go back in front, but they weren't able to capitalize, finishing the game 0-for-5 on the advantage.
With the game tied at two through regulation, the 'Birds headed off to 4-on-4 overtime for the second time this season. Both teams traded chances but the game needed 3-on-3 where Kenzie Robinson nearly gave UBC their sixth straight win on a late breakaway chance. But the third-year forward was denied by Alberta's Dayna Owen who had 16 saves and her second win of the season.
Double overtime proved fruitless and the 'Birds headed to their first shootout of the season. None of UBC's three shooters were able to score and after Boughn went 2-for-2, Boucher faked out the T-Bird netminder, lifting the puck over her left pad to hand the Pandas their fifth win of the season.
"We didn't win the special teams battle and our goal was to do that, but we have an opportunity tomorrow to correct on that," added Thomas. "We'll learn about some of the things we need to adjust, come hungry and ready to get it done tomorrow."
UBC's five-game win streak came to a halt with the loss, but the single point helps keep the 'Birds in first place in the Canada West standings, at least for the time being. The Pandas are now just a single point back of UBC and Alberta will now have a chance to leapfrog the T-Birds with a win in Saturday's rematch.
Puck drop for the second half of the weekend double header is set for 1:00 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds