UBC Women's Hockey Coach Graham Thomas.

UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey Coach Graham Thomas.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The momentum of ‘Roll Train’ has helped take the UBC Thunderbirds all the way to the CIS National Championship in Calgary, March 17-20. The team identity of relentless, respect, and resilient paved the way for ‘Roll Train’ to be born as the theme of the Thunderbird season.

Head Student Athletic Trainer, Daisy Parti came up with a clever acronym of ‘Relentless on Leaving a Legacy”. As Coach Graham Thomas describes, it was a team effort that bridged together ‘Roll Train’.

“We have our team identity, which is relentless, respect, and resilient. If you’re going to be a Thunderbird you’re going to represent these things,” said Thomas. “Every year we get a new team theme, we have our identity and our theme of the year. This year in Calgary we had a big team meeting and we just threw out a brainstorm session. We threw out all these different team themes and they (players) brought that idea up and everyone liked it and voted on it. Our trainer Daisy Parti was in their brainstorming. Now that we have the idea of a train being our theme. Our trainer used part of the team identity and came up with the Roll Train (Relentless on Leaving a Legacy).

As winners of Canada West Universities Athletic Association, UBC will be seeded anywhere from 1-4. Winners from the Atlantic University Sport, Ontario University Sport, and Quebec RSEQ conferences will also be in contention for a top four seed. Runners up will await seeding from 5-7.

The following teams have qualified for nationals, Saint Mary’s Huskies, Montreal Carabins, Guelph Gryphons, UBC Thunderbirds, McGill Martlets, St. Thomas Tommies, Western Mustangs, and Calgary Dinos. SMU, Montreal, and UBC have all won their respective conferences championships. The only seeding for certain is Calgary, as hosts they will be seeded 8th. Thomas has a bit of an idea on further seeding.

 “The first top four seeds are all your league champs. They base that seeding on how your record was during the year and your strength of schedule,” explained Thomas. “They base it a little bit off the top ten and what your regular season record was. Knowing that, if Guelph beats Western on Saturday and they are league champs. Guelph will be number 1, Montreal will be number 2, and it will be between us and the Atlantic Conference for seeds three and four.”

Thunderbirds supporters should keep an eye on the 4 vs 5 matchup. There is a very good chance UBC could matchup in an opening game against McGill. The Thunderbirds and Martlets tangled in Kingston, Ontario, on Sunday, September 20. Three unanswered goals carried UBC to a 3-2 victory.

The former Syracuse Assistant Coach is game planning for any and all opponents UBC could face. If McGill happens to be on the other side of the ice on Thursday, Thomas will have his team ready to go.

“Honestly looking at it, I think they’re going to be the number 5 seed and I think we’re probably going to be the number 4 seed. I feel like we are going to get the number 4 seed, and not the third seed so we will play them,” said Thomas. “We played well and tough against them, but they were missing their Canadian Olympian, their best forward, Mélodie Daoust. She didn’t play in that game when we played them. We’re a different team then we were then, we’ve developed a lot and come a long way. Either way we feel confident against whoever we are playing, but yeah it could be a UBC vs McGill matchup right off the hop.”

UBC Thunderbirds Women's Hockey Coach Graham Thomas during practice.

UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey Coach Graham Thomas (right) during practice.

Montreal, McGill, UBC, and Calgary are the only teams that have this week off from competition. A long lay-off in between games could potentially hurt any of these teams. On the other hand, much-needed rest after a long gruelling season appears to be most coveted with teams nursing bumps and bruises. You want your team as healthy as possible heading into nationals. Coach Thomas explains.

“I think it helps us, it helped us when we got a bye into the semis. We have (Danielle) Dube’s injury and four or five other girls that are banged up and playing through injuries over the weekend. It gives us time to heal them, prepare on our game and get our game stronger and better train.”

This isn’t the first time UBC Coach Graham Thomas has guided the Thunderbirds to the ship. The 2012/2013 season was a fantastic season and a surprising Team UBC headed off to nationals in Toronto. It didn’t go so well and UBC was out-matched. This time around, Thomas, his coaching staff, player leadership core are preparing advice so UBC can go to nationals, and come back as CIS champions.

“We got a little bit maybe too caught up in the miracle run we had in our first year and when we got to Toronto, it was so new. I think there were a lot of distractions and Dube got pneumonia. I think our team was a little all over the place,” reveals Thomas. “We also travelled and didn’t have a bye week. This years setup for us, we’ve been to Calgary lots and we’ve played out of that rink lots. It feels a little bit like a second home for us.”

“Back to your question about advice, I think just not letting distractions not getting in the way. Don’t be excited to be there. Come there with a purpose and have a belief and a purpose that we can be national champions and believe in that.”

UBC will be hoping the Markin MacPhail Centre will indeed provide a second home during nationals. It won’t be enough just to have an invitation to the dance. The Thunderbirds are looking to ‘Roll Train’ right through the competition and leave as 2016 CIS National Champions.

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