UBC Thunderbirds Coach, Graham Thomas. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are set to open the 2017 – 2018 Canada West season on Friday night at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre against the Manitoba Bisons. The defending Canada West Champions will look a little different this season. Seven new players are in the fold, and eight senior players that helped the Thunderbirds win bronze at USports Nationals in March, have graduated.

Coach Graham Thomas and his staff are enthusiastic about the new campaign.

“I’m really excited to see this group, and the lessons we’ve learned, and the things we’ve been working on,” said Coach Thomas. “A really strong focus this year, it’s going to be a process, and not worrying about nationals, and what happened in the past, and the success we’ve had in the last couple of years. We don’t really want to talk about that. Or put any extra pressure on winning games, and getting there. We just want to compete, mould as a unit. That’s probably one of our biggest challenges, we have a lot of new faces.”

The Thunderbirds had quite a busy preseason with three notable games against professional teams from China. Kunlan Red Star, Team China, and Vanke Rays played at an elevated level, while also providing a terrific hockey opportunity, and experience for UBC.

Acclimating seven new players is going to take some time. The preseason games have helped UBC work on line pairings, special teams, and strategies at both ends of the rink. Captain, Celine Tardif has no doubt that chemistry will start to foster as the season begins.

“It’s coming together,” said Tardif. “We’ve had a lot of preseason games to kind of see which pairings work, and stuff like that. We still have some work to do, but it will come in time.”

 

There is nothing like a good rivalry to build team chemistry and kick things into high gear. A veteran Manitoba Bisons roster will want to spoil the UBC Thunderbirds banner raising night and steal a pair of wins on the road.

“We’ve got a good healthy rivalry with them,” admitted, Coach Thomas. “There going to be, in my opinion, a team to beat this year. They’ve got a great roster, a senior roster, and that’s something that’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re ready for it. It’s going to be good hockey. We’re welcoming the opportunity to challenge ourselves against that team, and it should be fun.”

Following the Bisons, UBC will head out for back to back road trips. The Calgary Dinos, and Regina Cougars will be the Thunderbirds next two opponents. Setting the tone at home vs Manitoba could build early season momentum for a new group looking to click.

“It’s always tough games with them,” said Tardif. “We always manage to give some pretty exciting performances, I think on both parts. I think it’s a very healthy rivalry to have. We’ll both be pretty fired up to play, so it should be good competition this weekend.” 

The UBC Thunderbirds have shown that they deserve to be among the top women’s hockey programs in the country. This season, they will be re-tooling on the fly, while taking things one game at a time. A Canada West Championship would be great, and so would another medal at USports Nationals, but for now they just want to play hockey.

 

UBC Thunderbirds vs Manitoba Bisons

Friday, October 6 – 7:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Saturday, October 7 – 2:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre

 

 

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