The UBC Thunderbirds will take on the Guelph Gryphos in the CIS National Championship Semi-Finals on Sunday in Calgary.

The UBC Thunderbirds will take on the Guelph Gryphons in the CIS National Championship Semi-Finals on Saturday in Calgary.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are off to the CIS National Championship semi-finals after dispatching McGill 4-2 in a thrilling quarter-final match in Calgary. Kathleen Cahoon led the way with 2 goals and an assist, while 40 year-old goalkeeper Danielle Dube was sharp in the third period with UBC clinging to a 3-2 lead. Dube finished with 32 saves.

UBC will now take on the CIS number one ranked Guelph Gryphons on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. PT.

Coach Graham Thomas watched his team jump out to a quick 2-0 first period lead thanks to goals from Hannah Clayton-Carroll and Cahoon. The game plan was to attack McGill with high pressure and not let elite forwards Mélodie Daoust, and Gabrielle Davidson create open space for themselves or their teammates.

“Yeah definitely, we did,” said Thomas. “That was our game plan. We wanted to come out and pressure them, take away their time and space. We wanted to push back and force them to make mistakes. We didn’t get as many shots through, but I thought we had good time of puck possession. I thought the plan was good.”

Captain Cailey Hay and Celine Tardiff both had a great game defending Daoust, Davidson, and the Martlets. While McGill’s top players did create some moments of offense, on the few occasions they evaded defenders. For the most part, UBC kept a close eye on both of them and made sure neither would have an easy afternoon. Davidson finished with a goal and an assist, while Daoust scored a power play goal to make it 3-2 with 16:31 left in the third period.

“Yeah I agree,” said Thomas. “We knew we couldn’t cloak them off the entire game. Realistically we wanted to step up on them, and take away, time and space. All the D and forwards were kind of tasked out to do that and have that game plan.”

The line of Rebecca Unrau, Logan Boyd, and Kathleen Cahoon caused problems for McGill and together combined for three goals and a pair of helpers. The fourth-year winger, who has a habit of coming up with clutch goals for the Thunderbirds gave all the credit to her line-mates following the match.

“I do like high pressure situations. With Unrau and Boyd, I also think they thrive on big games. We find a way to put the puck in the net, but it’s a team game. It was a huge team win.”

UBC and Guelph last met during a preseason encounter on Sunday, September 21, 2014 in Calgary. The UBC Thunderbirds got the better of the Gryphons with a 5-1 victory. UBC’s leading goal-scorer Kathleen Cahoon knows it will be a different game this time around and another strong challenge for the Thunderbirds to face.

“I think they’ve been number one all year,” added Cahoon. “It’s definitely going to be a good challenge. We’re ready to learn and the teams very excited to see how they match up. It’s very exciting.”

The UBC Thunderbirds will take on the Guelph Gryphons in the CIS National Championship Semi-Finals on Saturday in Calgary.

The UBC Thunderbirds will take on the Guelph Gryphons in the CIS National Championship Semi-Finals on Saturday in Calgary.

Guelph has a lot more depth than McGill and that means scorers from all four-lines. It won’t be enough for UBC to shut down the Gryphons top point producers in Jessica Pinkerton and Averi Nooren. It will take a tremendous team effort and 60 minutes of hard work, and perhaps overtime.

Coach Graham Thomas will be putting his team through the paces as they get set for Guelph.

“They’re a different teams,” revealed, Thomas. “They’ve got a lot more depth, but similar to us. They’re a good team, they didn’t lose too many games this year. They’re a number one seed for a reason and it’s going to be a tough opponent. They’re well coached and well-organized. We’re going to be working on preparations, that’s going to be tonight and tomorrow.”

The difference maker for both teams could very well come from between the pipes. UBC and Guelph have both relied on brilliant goaltending all season long and throughout playoffs. Danielle Dube has been a rock for the Thunderbirds and at the other end, Gryphons goalkeeper Valerie Lamenta was named 2016 CIS Player of the Year on Wednesday.

The second year puck-stopper finished the season with a 16-2 record, 0.99 goals against average, .957 save percentage, and 7 shutouts. If both goaltenders stand on their heads you can expect to see a save after save duel between Dube and Lamenta with the winning team earning a trip to the CIS National Championship game on Sunday.

“It’s two really good goalies going head to head”, said Thomas. “They just have a deeper team and a really strong team. To win CIS Player of the Year, that doesn’t happen by accident.”

This is the furthest the UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey program has ever gone. A 2013 CIS Nationals berth in Toronto had UBC finishing in 5th place. This time around the team is much more prepared, confident, organized, and know just what to expect. The goal is not to just make an appearance, but to come away as CIS National Champions.

The success of the program has never been better and the 2016 Thunderbirds still have a lot more left to give.

“It’s huge for our program,” echoed Cahoon. “Four years ago when Graham came in and turned the program around, just to see how far we’ve come is amazing. All the effort and hard work we’ve put in, it’s great to see UBC thriving.”

The Thunderbirds will be looking to take down the Gryphons as they look to make even more history for UBC.

“It definitely hasn’t been done before,” explained Thomas. “Yeah, right way for us to be in the final four is history in itself. It’s exciting for the girls. We really epitomize what it is to be a team. It’s really exciting to see. Both semi-finals are on Sportsnet and it’s huge for our program. We don’t want to stop now, we want to keep going and win the gold medal game.”

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