Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds (4-2-2-3) held a two goal lead midway through the third period, but the defending national champion Manitoba Bisons (7-2-2-0) took the game over late in the final frame before eventually posting a 3-2 shootout win Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Jordyn Zacharias scored her Canada West leading sixth of the season at the 8:38 mark of the third which gave some added life to the visitors from Winnipeg who then carried the bulk of possession the rest of the way. UBC held onto the ropes in their own zone and appeared to finally relieve some pressure with a pair of shifts at the other end of the ice. But with two and a half minutes remaining in regulation, Erica Rieder one-timed a centering feed from Sheridan Oswald, tying the game and forcing extra time.
After just two power play opportunities through regulation, the T-Birds were given a 4-on-3 opportunity early in the first overtime frame but the home side was unable to capitalize.
With 3-on-3 proving fruitless, the 'Birds were off to their second shootout of the season. The number one ranked Bisons shot first and it was Zacharias beating T-Birds goaltender Tory Micklash for a second time. The third-year forward drew the puck back for a shot but held it and outwaited the netminder before roofing it to give the visitors the early edge.
Bisons goaltender Lauren Taraschuk made the stop on Mathea Fischer while Micklash stoned Manitoba's second shooter. Brie Bellerive's shot missed the net setting up the Bisons for the potential win on their next shooter. Karissa Kirkup rose to the challenge as she wristed the puck past Micklash to secure the Bisons' seventh straight victory.
"We did a lot of a great things and could have won that game," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas. "We're close, and we keep building but we're not quite there yet. It's part of a young team learning how to win. We need to learn to capitalize on opportunities, we had a lot of missed opportunities and you just can't do that."
The 'Birds started the game guns ablazing with a dominant opening period, outshooting the Bisons by a 14-6 margin.
Just 4:05 into the frame, Bellerive opened scoring with her third of the season. The fifth-year forward got a feed from Shay-Lee McConnell in the corner, drove towards the net and popped home her own rebound past Taraschuk.
UBC captain Celine Tardif doubled the T-Birds' lead with five minutes remaining in the frame. Tiffany Chiu made a backhand pass towards a crowded low slot and it deflected off Tardif and past a helpless Taraschuk.
The Manitoba goaltender finished the game with 25 saves and held her team in the game allowing for the third period comeback.
Neither side had much opportunity on the man advantage with the 'Birds going 0-for-3 on the power play while the Bisons failed to execute on their only chance, early in the third period.
Despite the loss, the 'Birds extended their point streak to three straight while the Bisons sit atop the Canada West alongside the Alberta Pandas, each with 25 points.
"We need to have short term memory loss," added Thomas. "We have to bury it and prepare to take that team down tomorrow. We're pretty motivated to get it done tomorrow."
UBC will go for the weekend split Saturday afternoon with puck drop set for 2:00 p.m. PT at Doug Mitchell.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds