Women's hockey bounces back after first regulation loss

The UBC women’s hockey team remained resilient this weekend after being handed their first regulation loss of the season on Friday night by the University of Calgary Dinos. Following a temporary drop in the standings, the ‘Birds fought hard on Saturday to reclaim their top spot with a 4–1 victory.

Friday night’s game was defined by bad puck luck for the Thunderbirds and an otherworldly performance by Dinos goalie Gabriella Durante.

The doubleheader started with an explosive first period for the Thunderbirds as they spent nearly the entire time flying around the Calgary net. The T-Birds’ domination was obvious when looking at the shot count as they led the shots 21–4. Unfortunately, the ‘Birds were unable to capitalize on any of their chances and the period ended scoreless.

Coming into the second period, the ‘Birds were determined to put the puck to the net and were finally rewarded when Grace Elliott opened the scoring just 60 seconds into the period. However, two goals were scored by the Dinos to take the lead. A hard shot from Mia Bierd bounced its way past the Dinos’ goalie, tying it up in the final minute.

The third period saw another early goal, but this time from the Dinos — Kyla Mitenko caught UBC’s seasoned goaltender Elise Hugens off guard less than a minute into the period, putting the Dinos in the lead.

Despite a very frantic and desperate effort, featuring many dangerous scoring opportunities, the Thunderbirds were never able to even things up. The final tally was 3–2 for the Dinos and the final shot count was 50–15 in favour of UBC. The game marked Canada West’s top team being handed their first regulation loss of the season by the Dinos (or more accurately, by Durante’s goaltending).

Saturday afternoon’s game was defined by an intensity that could only stem from two teams looking to prove themselves. UBC was looking to prove they could bounce back when faced with adversity, while Calgary was looking to prove the previous night’s game wasn’t a fluke.

It was an action-packed afternoon with lots of tension in front of the net. Over the course of the game, 21 penalties were dealt out (12 to UBC and 9 to Calgary). This was a stark contrast to the previous night’s more tame game in which only five penalties were registered (one by UBC and four by Calgary). The ‘Birds took advantage of the penalties, with both Jaylyn Morris and Cassidy Rhodes scoring power play goals before the mid-way point of the game for a 3–0 lead.

Penalties weren’t the only source of excitement during the intense rematch. Following a sequence in the second period that left the T-Birds on a five on three penalty kill, it seemed the Dinos had sniped one in. However, the goal was disallowed due to a crease violation. The Dinos came back to score their only successful attempt of the game right after the disallowment.

UBC's Chanreet Bassi was also rewarded for her hard work, scoring the last goal to increase the lead to 4–1.

The game ended in a 4–1 victory for the Thunderbirds with a (less jarring) shot count of 28–22 in favour of UBC. In particular, Rhodes and Morris found themselves connecting and each ended the game with a goal and an assist.

Following the win, coach Graham Thomas said he was “definitely proud of how [the team] responded.” Thomas also noted the mental toughness of his team given the academic and athletic grind they face at this time of year.

The Thunderbirds will spend their last matchup of 2023 in Saskatchewan taking on the University of Regina Cougars this weekend.