Thunderbirds split valiantly fought opening weekend with Dinos

Over the weekend, the UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team opened their regular season against the visiting University of Calgary Dinos. After two hard-fought games, UBC came away with three of four possible points.

On Friday night, after a showy introduction of the 2022/23 T-Birds roster, the puck dropped on the new season. UBC started strong in front of over 2,500 fans, with rookie forward Sasha Mutala hitting the post in the opening minute. Moments later, Langley native Josh Williams was awarded a penalty shot, but the puck was turned aside by Dinos’ goaltender Carl Tetachuk. After a back-and-forth period, T-Birds rookie defenceman Jake Lee got his team on the board. The highly-touted recruit took advantage of a defensive lapse in the Calgary zone, deking through his opponents before roofing it over the Tetachuk’s blocker for his first Canada West goal.

UBC controlled much of the second period, with Tian Rask giving his team an early 2–0 lead. Fifth-year Calgary forward Bradley Schoonbaert brought the game within one with a powerplay goal later in the period, and the teams headed into the second intermission with the score 2–1.

The Dinos tied the game on another powerplay goal in the third, but it didn’t take long for UBC to regain the lead. Veterans Scott Atkinson, Tian Rask and Cyle Mcnabb each scored in the final frame, sending the T-Birds home with a 5–2 victory. Rookie goaltender Kaeden Lane stopped 25 of 27 Calgary shots to earn his first Canada West victory.

The following afternoon, the two teams wasted no time in bringing the offence, with four goals scored in the first period. Ethan McIndoe and Mutala scored their first Canada West goals for the T-Birds while Max Patterson added two for the Dinos sending the game into the first intermission deadlocked at 2–2.

The second period was highlighted by solid goaltending from Lane and Calgary’s Carl Stankowski, as well as a much tighter defensive structure from UBC.

Early in the final frame, second-year T-Birds forward Jack Wismer grabbed his own rebound off of what appeared to be an innocuous rush and buried it past Stankowski to give his team the 3–2 lead. Moments later, Dinos forward Connor Horning tried to find his teammate back door and instead saw the puck bounce off of a UBC defender and past Lane to tie the game. As the minutes ticked off the clock, the two teams got more physical, and more defensively cautious. After three periods, the game headed to overtime.

Through two overtime periods of 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 hockey, the game remained undecided. Goaltenders Lane and Stankowski traded outstanding saves en route to a shootout. Mutala shot first for UBC, missing wide on the glove side. Next, Bradley Schoonbaert got Calgary on the board after he slid the puck through the legs of Lane. Liam Kindree and Riley Stotts were both stopped in their attempts before Carson Miller tallied for the ‘Birds. Finally, Jordan Xavier flew in on Lane with a chance to win the game, ripping the puck over the UBC netminder’s glove and sending the Dinos home with a 4–3 victory. Stankowski made 36 saves for the win, while Lane stopped 28 in the T-Birds net.

Despite walking away with three of a possible four points, UBC head coach Sven Butenschön was disappointed in his team’s performance.

“I thought we [would] have a little more jam, a little more jump,” said Butenschön after the game. “It’s so hard to win both games, and we just didn’t have that killer instinct to put them down.”

Next week, the T-Birds will fly to Winnipeg to face off against the University of Manitoba Bisons.