VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds and Manitoba Bisons will renew acquaintances at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in the best of three series from March 4-6. At stake, a spot CIS National Championship Tournament in Calgary March 17-20. UBC and Manitoba are vying for the opportunity to represent as champions of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
UBC and Manitoba have a bit of a rivalry that could potentially boil over. The Bisons came to Vancouver during the last post-season and eliminated UBC in the semi-finals. To add to the intensity, UBC’s number one goalkeeper, Danielle Dube was run over in the final game of the regular season at Manitoba on February 13. Dube was taken to the hospital with an unknown injury. She has almost fully recovered and was brilliant in net as UBC won back to back elimination games against the Regina Cougars last weekend.
West Vancouver’s Haneet Parhar has had a breakout season with the Thunderbirds compiling 7 goals and 7 assists. The 4th year forward scored an important 2-0 goal for UBC on Sunday after poking home a loose puck from her knees. Parhar has seen UBC come together since the season finale in Winnipeg. Being at home against Manitoba should provide an advantage and a psychological boost for the Thunderbirds.
“I think we’ve grown as a team since then and I really do think we are a different team right now,” said Parhar. “When we were in Manitoba, and in their barn, it was a different feeling. We’ve got a couple of games under our belt, we’re good to go, and we’re ready for them this time.”
This won’t be an easy matchup for UBC. Manitoba won’t be a pushover, and both teams know each other very well. This series will be a barn burner and you can expect to see some greasy garbage goals, a little bit of stick work, fantastic back and forth action, and a few lovely glove saves.
UBC defender Kelly Murray is expecting another round of tough games against the Bisons. It won’t be a walk in Pacific Spirit Park, but the Thunderbirds will be ready to give the Bisons all they can handle.
“They were both really tough games,” Murray said. “Manitoba is a really good tough, strong team and they put up a good fight and so did we. Obviously you want to come out of the weekend with both wins, which we didn’t, but that’s alright. We’re really just hoping that this weekend we’ll be able to put them away.”
The home team has to stay out of the box. A parade to the penalty box will put a strain on special teams players and put a dent in the overall game plan. The best way to beat the Bisons is on the scoreboard. Any retribution for the collision with Dube will have to be put aside. Murray and her teammates would like to send the Bisons into early hibernation and winning this series is the best way to do that.
“You need to stay calm and focused and I think that we realized that trying to hurt somebody on the other team isn’t going to do anything for Dubes,” Murray added. “Dubes is a very mature person and she would want us to just play our game, protect our house, and protect our goalies, but don’t do anything stupid.”
It could however be a bit of a challenge staying out of the penalty box. UBC is averaging 15.2 penalty minutes this post-season and that leads all CWUAA playoff teams.
Leading scorer Kathleen Cahoon notched both game winners against the Regina Cougars. She will be one to watch this weekend. The factors at play against the Bisons are not lost on the Calgary, Alberta native.
“There’s a lot of factors from that game even with Dube getting hurt and stuff,” Cahoon admits. “I don’t think we’re going to take them lightly at all.”
UBC went into that final weekend of the season hoping to secure top seed in the CWUAA. The visitors won the first game 4-2 before dropping the season finale 4-3. Coach Graham Thomas admits that losing out on the number one seed has added another piece of motivation for the Thunderbirds.
“Yeah absolutely and kind of just the way things went down with Dube and everything that happened in that game,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep our emotions in control, but we’ve got to battle hard.”
The Thunderbirds and Bisons are going to play a terrific series of hockey at UBC this weekend and both teams are probably going to be black and blue by the end of it.
Whichever team can stay out of the box and capitalize on silly retaliation penalties will win the series. Getting in lanes, blocking shots, and countering on turnovers will help the best team win and advance to the CIS National Championship.
Notes: This is the first time UBC has hosted the CWUAA Women’s Hockey Championship Final.