Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – Tory Micklash set a new team record recording her 10th career Canada West shutout as the UBC Thunderbirds earned a 1-0 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
The lone goal came early in the third period when Ashley McFadden scored on a shorthanded breakaway for the game winner, officially clinching UBC a playoff spot in front of a strong crowd in support of mental health awareness night.
Micklash made 16 saves for her tenth win and fifth shutout of the season while Jessica Vance stopped 26 in a solid performance in Saskatchewan's net.
"Goaltending has always been a strong backbone of the program, it's amazing for her to achieve that," said UBC head coach Graham Thomas of Micklash's record breaking night. "We're very proud of her and it was a very deserving shutout, she earned it."
The two rivals who have no love lost for each other saw things get feisty early on Friday night with plenty of extracurricular gatherings resulting in a number of penalties. The 'Birds had some tremendous chances while on the advantage but finished the first period 0-for-2 and 0-for-7 on the game.
UBC controlled the pace of play in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Huskies by a 7-3 margin. But despite some good puck control and speed, the game remained scoreless heading into the second frame.
The 'Birds picked up in the second right where they left off, dominating puck possession with another couple early scoring chances. Several shots went wide while Jessica Vance stopped everything else.
UBC earned their third power play of the night six minutes into the second frame and Emily Costales nearly opened scoring as the puck got past Vance and trickled onto the goal line, but the Saskatchewan netminder got her glove behind her just in time before it completely crossed, keeping the game scoreless.
"We had a lot of really good opportunities, some we didn't capitalize on," added Thomas. "We knew it was going to be that kind of game against their goalie. We just wanted to stick to the process, it's a playoff type game and we kept a steady amount of pressure on them."
While not nearly as busy, Micklash was just as strong at the other end of the ice, keeping the Huskies off the board while the T-Birds held an 18-7 advantage in shots through 40 minutes.
The 'Birds were finally able to break the deadlock five minutes into the third when McFadden scored her team-leading eighth of the season on the shorthanded break. The Huskies attempted to gain the UBC zone but the play was broken up along the boards while Shay-Lee McConnell collected the puck and fed it to McFadden in the neutral zone. The T-Birds' rookie then streaked in alone and roofed the puck past Vance and into the top corner. Rylind MacKinnon picked up the second assist.
The Huskies pulled Vance with 81 seconds remaining in an effort to solve Micklash and send the game to overtime, but Saskatchewan ended up back on the penalty kill with 44 seconds left after a hit to the head minor was assessed on a collision in the neutral zone. The Huskies poured on the pressure in the dying seconds with the extra attacker to get five skaters back on the ice, but the 'Birds held on for the victory, officially clinching a playoff spot in the process.
UBC heads into Saturday's final regular season meeting with the Huskies with a four-point lead on Saskatchewan for third place in the conference, seven points back of second place Alberta.
Puck drop Saturday is 7:00 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds