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The UBC Thunderbirds preparing to take on the Alberta Pandas this weekend at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds and Alberta Pandas will be in a battle as the top two teams in USports face off on Friday and Saturday at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. The reigning USports champs bring an 8-2-2 record, against a Thunderbirds team with a 8-4-0 record, and surprising 3-3-0 record at home.

It’s been uncharacteristic for UBC to struggle at home and they’ll be looking to change that.

“It’s been something that hasn’t been a challenge for us in the past,” Coach Graham Thomas admitted. “I think it’s more so at that time of year some things that we needed to work on and learn. It’s too bad that the timing was a home game. I don’t think it has anything to do with home vs away. I think it’s just how we were playing at the time. It’s been really good building on some things, plays, rolls, creating offence, and attacking. The things we’ve been working have been good. They’re starting to come. We’re right there.”

You can sense that there is extra motivation for the Thunderbirds. While UBC beat Alberta for the Canada West Championship, it was the Pandas that claimed the ultimate prize. It’s Alberta, and not UBC that’s the team to beat. The Thunderbirds come into the series as rare underdogs. They want to show Alberta, Canada West, and themselves that they can compete, and still win big games.

“For us, it’s kind of neat,” Thomas said. “We’re usually the ones with everyone coming with their best at us, fired up to play us because we’re number one. It’s kind of nice to come into the weekend a little bit the underdog. Also, where do we stand up against the defending national champs. It’ll be good to see where we gauge ourselves. We’re excited for the challenge. It’s going to be a fast paced game, and we’re looking forward to it.”

UBC’s Hannah Clayton-Carroll is tied for first in the league with 7 goals. She has a nose for the net, and will be looking to pounce on any loose pucks. The Vancouver native, admits that UBC need to be switched on, focused, and sharper from the first whistle if they’re to get a result vs Alberta.

“I think we’re going to be a lot more focused this weekend,” said Clayton-Carroll. “For sure we want to come out strong on Friday night, bring our best, try to have a little rematch from nationals, and see where it goes. We’re trying to be sharper. We’re not struggling too much, but we’re having a little trouble bringing focus to the game. Hopefully we’re going to be crisp, and sharp this weekend.”

Anytime UBC and Alberta take each other on, it’s a circle on the calendar for Thunderbirds assistant captain, Kirsten Toth. The former Alberta defender always has a grin and a look of determination when Alberta is the opponent. The Thunderbirds, and Pandas bring out the best in each other, and Toth can’t wait to hit the ice.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Toth said, following practice this week. “I think as a team, we’ve been looking forward to it. It’s always a quick, fast paced series. It’s good hockey. They’re the most exciting games to play in, so we’ve just been preparing to get ready for them.”

The outspoken fifth-year veteran took a moment to pause when asked about personal motivation against Alberta.

“Yeah,” Toth said. “It’s all your old teammates, not all of them, there’s lots of turnover. You just want to show everyone what you’ve been working on, and coming off an injury. I think it’s important that I show them that I haven’t rolled over yet.”

It’s not only Toth, but the UBC Thunderbirds as a team that want to show they haven’t ‘rolled over’. The team that’s won back to back medals at USports nationals is still a serious threat to contend this season. Taking on Alberta is an opportunity to show that UBC is still here, and ready to make noise when it matters most.

UBC Thunderbirds vs Alberta Pandas

Friday, November 24 – 7:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Saturday, November 25 – 2:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre

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