Home Canada West Thunderbirds take victory over first-ranked Golden Bears in final regular season game

Thunderbirds take victory over first-ranked Golden Bears in final regular season game

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UBC Thunderbirds vs. Alberta Golden Bears
The Thunderbirds' confidence rises as they defeat the No. 1-ranked Golden Bears. (Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds photo)

VANCOUVER (from UBC Thunderbirds) – The UBC Thunderbirds (16-10-2) head into the Canada West playoffs as a confident group after closing out the regular season with a 4-3 win over the No. 1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears (23-4-1) Saturday afternoon at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Tied at two heading into the final period, The Bears pulled ahead for the first time 4:08 into the third with Brandon Magee’s ninth of the season, finishing in front off a Riley Kieser feed.

But just like the night before, the T-Birds remained tenacious and tied the game at three less than three minutes later. Adam Rossignol won a faceoff in the offensive zone right to Devan Fafard who shot the puck right on net, past Bears’ netminder Brendan Burke and in for his second of the season.

Overtime loomed for the second straight night but with just under three minutes remaining in regulation, Raymond Grewal made a centering feed from below the goal line to Chase Clayton who hammered the puck without a doubt to the back of the net for his seventh and what proved to be the game winner.

“It was a great play by Raymond Grewal, him and Riley Guenther have really stepped up playing forward and it’s been a pleasure playing with those guys, how hard they’re working,” said Clayton who earned the game’s first star. “Ray makes a great play, goes around the net and the puck squirts out in the middle and I saw an opportunity to sneak down and wire it and it felt great.”

The Bears outshot the ‘Birds 39-23 while Rylan Toth picked up his second win in net making 26 saves through the final two periods.

“It was a see-saw battle, even when they were really pressing I thought we defended well,” said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. “There’s going to be times in a game where the other team takes it up a notch and you have to weather the storm and we got enough chances to put some away.”

Saturday’s first period couldn’t have been more different from the night before. This time it was the Thunderbirds who opened up a 2-0 lead by the 14 minute mark. Jerret Smith got the ball rolling with his fourth of the season wristing the puck from the top of the right circle. Tyler Sandhu and Nick Buonassisi picked up the helpers.

Just over a minute later, Matt Revel blew past two Bears in the neutral zone before releasing a perfectly placed shot over Burke’s left shoulder for his tenth of the season. Smith earned his second point of the game with an assist, Kyle Becker got the second helper.

The second period saw the Golden Bears come storming back. It took all of 44 seconds to cut into the ‘Birds’ lead when Sawyer Lange’s wrist shot beat Toth for his second of the season from Luke Philp and Magee. The visitors then tied the game at the 9:37 mark when Trevor Cox finished a tic-tac-toe play for his seventh from Clayton Kirichenko and Steven Owre.

Special teams didn’t play nearly as big a role Saturday as the night before with UBC failing to score on their lone man advantage of the game which turned out to last a whopping 22 seconds before the ‘Birds were called on a trip. The Bears finished 0-for-4 as UBC held the Canada West’s top power play to two goals on 12 combined chances over the weekend.

The Thunderbirds finish the regular season with a 16-10-2 record and 34 points, the biggest point total for UBC in 29 years.

The ‘Birds now shift focus to the Canada West quarterfinals where UBC will host either the Calgary Dinos or the Mount Royal Cougars for a best-of-three series starting Friday, February 16th at Doug Mitchell, just the second home ice playoff series for the T-Birds in 47 years.

“We wanted to make a statement with these games,” said Clayton. “It was our goal to make sure we came out and set a precedent for how we want to play down the stretch here.”

“It sure feels good right now, but we’re proof that anybody can beat anybody,” added Butenschon. “Nobody’s going to be scared that we beat Alberta or Saskatchewan, they’re going to come in here confident with a good game plan and we just have to re-focus and get ready to go.”

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