EWH 2016-1014-CAL-058

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Cassandra Vilgrain in action. Photo credit: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are gearing up for the upcoming Canada West season with an exciting new challenge to help with preparations. UBC will drop the puck on a three game preseason exhibition series against teams from China. UBC will play Team China on Tuesday, September 26, the CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star on Wednesday, September 27, and the CWHL’s Vanke Rays on Monday, October 2.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s probably going to be the best competition,” said UBC Thunderbirds Head Coach, Graham Thomas. “(The) highest level of hockey that’s been here, in preseason. They’re older players, they’ve played in NCAA careers, internationally, or the Olympics. Just the level of competition, to get us ready, get our level up, to see where we are early in the year. It’s going to be really beneficial to us, regardless of what the scores are. We want to compete, and learn with the new group.”

The 2017 Canada West Champions, and USports Final bronze medalists are going through somewhat of a transition period on and off the ice. Much of the strong leadership core that helped UBC win back to back medals at nationals, have graduated from the program. The coaching staff have made adjustments and brought in new players. In her 4th year of eligibility, defender Celine Tardif, will captain the Thunderbirds this season.

“We’ve got a new leadership group beside, Celine Tardif,” said Coach Thomas. “We’ve graduated a lot of our older players, and leaders. The younger players are doing really well. The transfer players, everybody is looking really good. I’d say we’ve got a really good competitive roster again. It’s going to be about learning, and getting those games in early.”

Calgary, Alberta native, Cassandra Vilgrain is entering her second season with UBC. She piled up points last season, and is looking forward to what will be a tough preseason series. The rare opportunity to play against teams from China offers a unique experience university athletes don’t usually get.

“I’m actually really excited,” admitted Vilgrain. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge for our team. I’ve looked over the rosters a bit, there’s some pretty good players on those teams. Aside from what other teams are doing in preparations, this is going to be really good for us, to push our pace, and get prepared for the season.”

Everyone will have an opportunity to take to the ice. It’s important to spread minutes around to test out line combinations, strategies, and work on special teams. UBC will want to make sure everyone gets through the three games series healthy. It’s going to be high level competitive hockey, with UBC looking to show they can defend home ice.

“That it’ll be really good competition for us,” said Thunderbirds winger, Mathea Fischer, when asked what she’s looking forward to. “They’re really good teams, and they’re bringing  a lot of experience. I think that will be a good challenge for us, and good for us to get some competitive games in.”

China is showing a new interest in a sport that Canadians sleep, and breath all year round. The 2017 NHL China preseason games between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are proof that hockey is breaking boundaries and not just defined to North America, and Europe.

“It’s great international relations,” said Coach Thomas. “We obviously have a great city to host, teams come out here, train, and stay. For us, to get to play against players from all over the world, North America, Europe, and China. It’s just an awesome experience, and culture exchange. It’s a lot of fun, and great experience for the girls as a group, and the university.”

The UBC Thunderbirds are all about taking on new opportunities. This preseason exhibition series is a fantastic test to be able to play teams from China, while also putting in the necessary work before the start of the Canada West season. UBC will open their campaign at home on Friday, October 6 vs Manitoba.

 

Tuesday, Sep 26 at 7:00 PM – UBC vs CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star – Father Bauer Arena.
Wednesday, Sep at @ 7:00 PM – UBC vs Team China – Father Bauer Arena.
Monday, Oct 2 at 7:00 PM – UBC vs CWHL’s Vanke Rays – UBC Thunderbird Arena.

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