UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas talks tactics following practice in Vancouver.

UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas talks tactics following practice on October 12, 2016.

VANCOUVER, B.C – An early season marquee matchup will take place at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Friday and Saturday. The CIS no.2, UBC Thunderbirds host the CIS no. 9, Calgary Dinos. Each team will be looking to shake off rust from the opening weekend. The Dinos dropped a pair of games to Alberta and the Thunderbirds went 1-1-0 vs Saskatchewan.

UBC was slow out of the gate in both first periods vs the Huskies, that’s something the team has been working to improve in practice this week. Thunderbirds forward, Kathleen Cahoon knows how important it is to get off to a good start.

“We actually just had a talk about that today,” said Cahoon. “We are really going to bare down in practices and build habits through there. I think that having full energy coming into the game is going to be huge.”

The Calgary, Alberta native, will have her dad, brother, and some of her grandparents in town to take in ‘The Good Old Hockey Game(s)’. Cahoon isn’t putting any extra pressure on herself with her family in the stands. She’s treating the Dinos as any other team UBC will face this season.

“I think every game, is every game,” admitted Cahoon. “Every opposition can win on every given night. Going into every battle, it’s the same hunger, the same desire to win. That doesn’t really change throughout the season.”

Coach Graham Thomas would like to see some secondary scoring from the Thunderbirds. The line of Nicole Saxvik, Logan Boyd, and Cassandra Vilgrain dominated the Huskies at times. Vilgrain and Saxvik currently sit a top Canada West in scoring. Vilgrain’s 3 goals and 2 assists helped her earn Canada West ‘First Star of the Week’ honours.

The Thunderbirds know they have plenty of more scoring yet to come from throughout the lineup.

“That’s the funny thing, in preseason we had goals from everybody,” revealed Thomas. “It’s just weekend one, but you’re right. It is something that we do want more of and we are capable of. We have some of our typical goal-scorers from previous years, like Cahoon for example, or Fish (Mathea Fischer). They haven’t found the back of the net yet, but we’re not worried. To be successful we do need, secondary, third scoring from anyone of those other lines that hasn’t been producing right now, because they’re all capable. We’re confident it’s going to happen.”

Cahoon produced 12 goals and 9 assists in 28 games for UBC last season. Down the stretch she was at her best contributing 6 points in the Canada West playoffs, and 2 goals and 2 assists at nationals in Calgary. With her skill, talent, and size, it shouldn’t take long for her to ripple the net of opposition goalies.

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon following practice on October 12, 2016.

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon following practice on October 12, 2016.

“I think we proved in preseason that scoring can come from anywhere,” said Cahoon. “I think we’re trying to get into the swing of a full season right now. I don’t think anyone is worried right now. It’s awesome that they’re (Saxvik, Boyd, Vilgrain) producing and helping us out.”

At the other end of the ice, UBC will have to stay out of the box and step up special teams play if they are going to get the better of Calgary. Both teams made it to CIS Nationals last spring and it’s not far-fetched to think that they’ll be each others main competition to get back to the dance, in Kingston, Ontario in March.

Coach Thomas is setting up his tactics focusing in on one key specific Dinos forward who finished second in Canada West scoring last season with 14 goals and 21 assists in 28 games.

“They’re going to be good. They’ve got their Russian Olympian (Alexandra) Vafina, who’s a sniper. She’s really quick and she’s got a good quick release. I think we have to have good sticks defensively. We have to play the body, one on one. We can’t fall for the dispsy-doodle, because she’s good. She’s skilled, she’s quick, and she can score. We’ve got to shut her down. Chelsea Court is another player who can score. We’ve got to shut them down, and hopefully the rest of our depth can take over.”

While the competition and battle is fierce on the ice, both Thomas and Calgary Dinos Coach, Danielle Goyette have a respect for one and other. It’s a friendly rivalry for both coaches behind the bench and it’s got a long history. This weekend will add another chapter and a few more bragging rights for the winner.

“She’s been my longest coach rival that I’ve ever had in the women’s game,” said Thomas. “We went together when she was in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference) in Calgary. I was at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) in my first year. Her and I were kind of battled each other for first place, and they ended up bumping us out first year in the playoffs. The next year we bumped her out of the playoffs to win the championship, when I came back from Syracuse (University). Regardless of what the results have been, we have a good relationship, good rapport I respect her a lot for what she’s done as a player and also as a coach, and being in the Olympics. She’s accomplished some amazing things, player and coach. It’s a good healthy competition, our teams always battle each other hard.”

UBC Thunderbirds vs Calgary Dinos 

Friday, October 14, 2016

7:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

3:00 p.m.

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