Archive for the ‘UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey’ Category

(BEN NELMS for UBC)

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales. Photo Credit: Ben Nelms for UBC.

VANCOUVER, B.C – In a season full of new faces the UBC Thunderbirds are a team looking to connect, and find the right chemistry as they gear up for the second half of the Canada West season in January. The 10-6-0 Thunderbirds haven’t quite hit their stride yet, but they are working hard, and building towards what could be a long playoff run.

One of the new faces this season is Emily Costales, a transfer from Syracuse University, the hometown winger is trying to fit in with a UBC team that has been there, and done it before. It has taken time for the Canada West rookie to find a role with the team, but Costales is finally settling in and contributing on and off the ice.

“I’m feeling a little bit better, I feel like coming in as a transfer, it’s kind of hard to find your role on the team,” Costales admitted. “I feel like the past few weeks, I’ve been able to grasp where I’m at on the team. Hopefully it just keeps building from there. I feel like I’ve just got to stay out of the penalty box, and play the role that I’ve developed here.”

When she is staying out of the box, Costales has been a special teams spark plug for UBC. Not only is she an asset when the team is killing a penalty, but she is tied for first overall in Canada West short-handed goals. Costales is always looking to dig out a loose puck along the boards, or battle for possession below the hash-marks. More often than not, she’s winning those battles, and helping UBC in transition.

“I try my hardest to be one of the grittiest players out there,” Costales said. “Just grind, and win every battle I can, just trying to bring a calming presence, and make the right plays, at the right time.”

Her dogged determination, and compete level have helped her rack up 4 goals, and 3 assists this season. UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, isn’t surprised by what Costales has been able to bring to the team. He first coached her as an assistant coach when Costales was on Team B.C. in grade 12.

“She’s really coming on right now,” Thomas revealed. “She’s finding her game, and she’s playing confident. She’s plays with a lot of power, and energy. A power forward, but can also be shifty. We’re going to need her to continue to play the way she’s playing, and lead by example.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales.

The support network for Costales was a big factor in her decision to move from ‘The Orange’ to the Thunderbirds program. Playing so far away from home was a new experience for Costales. In the end it made more sense to return home to her familiar roots on the west coast.

“I had a great time out in Syracuse, but I got pretty homesick,” Costales revealed. “There was some family issues and stuff. I decided to come back home, and play with some of my close friends, Celine Tardif and Brielle Bellerive. I’m living at home right now so, it’s really nice to settle back home and been with the family.”

Being able to play in her own backyard has helped Costales settle into her new surroundings with Thunderbirds. She has a huge family support network that you can often hear at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre cheering her on, and giving an earful to the referees.

“My mom, and dad are pretty much my biggest fans. I feel like my dad kind of brought me to where I am, he’s such a big support network, just himself. He’s a huge reason why I feel like I’m very succesful in sport. He’s just there whenever I need help. It’s just so nice to play in front of him again. I feel like I get extra hyped, because I know that they’re watching. It means the world to me, I love it so much.”

The Costales family will next have an opportunity to watch UBC on January 5 – 6 when the Thunderbirds host the Calgary Dinos at UBC’s Father David Bauer Arena. UBC will be hoping to start the new year on a positive note as they push towards Canada West playoffs and perhaps another trip to USports nationals.

“We kind of play it day, by day, because there’s so many new faces,” Costales said, when asked about USports nationals. “We’re trying to be true to the Thunderbird mentality, and whatever comes with that. That’s pretty much the end goal, to make it to nationals, but we’ve got to take it step by step.”

Costales and the ‘New Kids’ on the Thunderbird block will indeed be taking it, ‘Stept by Step’ this season.

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The UBC Thunderbirds hard at work preparing to take on the Manitoba Bisons this weekend in Winnipeg.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The first half of the Canada West season is about to come to an end this weekend, but not before a massive matchup between the UBC Thunderbirds and Manitoba Bisons on Friday, and Saturday in Winnipeg. The 11-3-0 Canada West leaders are on a nine-game winning streak as they host 9-5-0 UBC.

Manitoba, Alberta, and UBC have dominated the USports rankings this season, but it’s the Bisons who are slotted 4th, with Alberta 1st, and UBC 2nd. The Bisons nine-game winning streak is a fantastic first half achievement. It could be a sign of bigger things to come, so what’s been the key to their success?

“Probably biggest factor is confidence knowing we can be successful in tight low scoring games or in games that open up more. We are also getting contributions from a lot of different people,” Coach Jon Rempel said.

At the other end of the rink, UBC Coach Graham Thomas is preparing his team to navigate a few obstacles as they head out on the road to wrangle up some Bisons.

“It’s going to be real tough,” Thomas admitted. “It looks like they’ve got a full healthy lineup too. They’re 9 – 0 in their last nine so they’re going to be playing really well. There always hard to play in their barn. There’s definitely going to be a lot of adversity, challenges. We’re traveling, time change, the rink. Those challenges are going to be there for us. It’s going to be a big physical, and mental challenge for us. We’ve got to pull through. It’s going to be a tight series.”

It’s going to be a home-coming of sorts for several Thunderbirds. Madison Patrick, Jaedon Cooke, Tory Micklash, Kenzie Robinson, and Karlee Mazor all hail from “Friendly Manitoba.” Mazor, in her first season with UBC will have a large contingent of supporters at Wayne Fleming Arena.

“I’m super excited just to play in front of my friends, and family,” an excited Mazor said. “My parents, grandparents, all my family, hairdresser, they’re all coming.”

While both teams will want to end the first half on a positive note, UBC is looking at the bigger picture. The Thunderbirds want to continue to trust the process by skating, and putting together a pair of solid sixty-minute games. If they can earn results that would be great, but it’s all down to the process.

“I think the process is more important,” revealed Thomas. “We’re building on what we want to see as a staff, and as with the players. More importantly, I think the biggest goal for us this weekend, is competing hard, and finishing strong together, and getting some momentum. Obviously getting the sweep or getting two wins, is the best way to do that. We also want to be realistic, and know that they’re going to be tough, and intense games.”

Having watched Alberta and UBC both bring home medals from USports nationals last spring, you might think that Manitoba are on a mission to prove that they can beat Alberta, and UBC. That’s simply not the case, the Bisons are solely focused on themselves, and what they can control.

“We only have to keep proving to ourselves that we are a good solid team and keep improving.” Rempel said. 

A former St. Mary’s Academy player, Mazor knows that it’s going to take a complete UBC team effort against Manitoba. Playing smart, but physical hockey means staying out of the box, and capitalizing on special teams. Mazor is expecting to see a similar series after the teams split the season opening matchup. A 5-4 win for Manitoba, and a 4-1 UBC win.

“I think they’re going to be a super tough team, very aggressive,” Mazor said. “Last time we played them, they were very aggressive, hard on the puck, big bodies. so I think we just need to match that.”

UBC and Manitoba are going to be competing neck and neck in the standings, and rankings this season. This series could be an appetizer for a potential playoff showdown in February, and both teams will want positive results to look back on.

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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

UBC Thunderbirds

UBC Thunderbirds practicing at Father Bauer Arena on Tuesday, October 24, 2017.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are back from a four-game road trip and ready to hit the ice tomorrow night vs Lethbridge. The 4-2-0 Thunderbirds picked up three consecutive wins on the road, before being shutout 1-0 by the Regina Cougars on Saturday. The USports number two ranked team in the country, will look for a bounce back game.

Coach Graham Thomas wants to see more pucks to the net, intensity, and an overall smarter game from his team. At 3-3, the Pronghorns sit sixth in the Canada West Conference. Lethbridge presents an interesting challenge for UBC as they have the top defence in Canada West, having allowed a league low, nine goals this season.

“Yeah, the Pronghorns always come prepared, and play us really hard,” Thomas admitted. “We’ve had some good battles with them. Tight games, and I don’t expect anything but that this weekend.”

Lethbridge goalkeeper, Alicia Anderson comes into this weekend with a .957 save percentage (1st overall), 202 saves (1st overall), and a sparkling 1.55 GAA (3rd overall). Getting traffic in front of Anderson, and shooting from everywhere will be the key to throwing the Calgary, Alberta native, off her game.

Special teams are one area that UBC wants to improve on. Coach Thomas wasn’t overly thrilled with his teams power play, and penalty killing while on the road. Both could use a positive boost. UBC certainly has the snipers to ripple the net while on the power play.

“Power play started out really good,” said, Thomas. “Our penalty kill has been better, and we’re getting that back up, but our power play does need to be better. We’re going to work on it. We’ve been making some changes, and trying some different things. There’s a little bit of grace there, and a little bit of patience with the power play.”

Playing against a stingy team like Lethbridge means dominating on special teams, and especially staying out of the box. UBC Thunderbirds, defender Kirsten Toth, leads Canada West with 26 penalty minutes this season. Cutting back her time in the box is a must.

“It’s something that we’re working with her, and talking to her about,” Thomas revealed. “It’s tough. Some of it was just off one play, she had 14 penalty minutes, a 10 minute misconduct. A little bit of fisticuffs, so I think that skews the number a bit.”

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UBC Thunderbirds defender, Kirsten Toth during practice in February, 2016.

Fisticuffs aside, UBC is a much stronger and organized team with Kirsten Toth patrolling the blue-line, shutting down opposition forwards. The fifth-year veteran is working towards more of a disciplined game, while still playing quality defensive-zone hockey.

“I think a big thing is stay disciplined going into next weekend,” Toth said. “Last weekend, I racked up the minutes, and it doesn’t look too good. It never feels good putting your team on the penalty kill. My goal personally is to stay out of the penalty box.”

Keeping Toth on the ice will be vital, but it’s also important for the entire team to stay within the game, and play whistle to whistle. Opposition teams are going to have games vs UBC circled on their calendar. UBC needs to beat them on the ice, and not in the box.

“At the same time, it’s not just Toth,” Thomas said. “We as a team need to be more disciplined. There’s some emotions that are getting the best of us. Teams come at us hard, because they want to take us down. We’ve got to be prepared for that. We’ve got to be able to still play hockey, keep our cool, and our focus.”

While Toth wants to cut back on the PIM’s, she won’t completely change her game to do that. Yes, she can play a physical brand of hockey, and still remain on the ice. It’s all about positioning, getting your stick in lanes, taking the right angle on a player, blocking out, defensive communication with teammates, and timing.

“There’s certain players on other teams that are more prone to taking penalties,” Toth said. “I think the other teams know that I’m more prone to taking penalties, but I think that just goes a long with the style of my play. Sometimes you’ve got to do, what you’ve got to do on the ice. Emotions aside, it’s important to let the other teams know sometimes that you’re there.”

Every succesful winning hockey team has players who have everyone’s back on the ice, no matter what. UBC knows that if teams can’t beat them on the scoreboard, Kirsten Toth will be there to defend, and stick up for her teammates if they want to take liberties. That’s when you can afford to kill off the odd penalty for a face wash and an exchange of pleasantries.

UBC Thunderbirds vs Lethbridge Pronghorns

Friday, October 27 – 7:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Saturday, October 28 – 2:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Brielle Bellerive

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Brielle Bellerive on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds season continues tonight as they take on the Calgary Dinos in Canada West action. UBC opened the campaign with a 5-4 loss, and a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Bisons last weekend. The Thunderbirds will be looking for more consistency, chemistry, and a quick start from the opening whistle against Calgary.

There’s always going to be an adjustment period with the addition of seven new players. Moving players around who can fit into specific roles on the team isn’t going to be solved overnight. Coach Graham Thomas, and his staff are working to make sure players are in the best position possible to be able to contribute to the team.

One of the newest Thunderbirds is, Brielle Bellerive. The North Vancouver native, is in her first season with UBC after transferring over from Clarkson University. After playing three seasons in the NCAA, Bellerive was looking for a fresh new environment, and she knew that UBC could offer that.

“I was just really losing the love for the game,” Bellerive admitted. “It wasn’t the best environment for me there. This was such a great opportunity for me. I’d played under Dom (Assistant Coach, Dom DiRocco) and Graham (Coach Thomas) already. It’s nice to be at home, I haven’t lived at home in six years.”

What type of player do the UBC Thunderbirds have in Brielle Bellerive?

“I think a two-way forward, a bit of a power forward,” said Bellerive. “I’m still finding myself. New team, new role.”

The Thunderbirds will be hoping that Bellerive can thrive while playing in her own backyard. She’s still waiting for her first UBC goal, but she’s already picked up a pair of assists. While her on ice role is still to be determined, Coach Thomas sees a terrific hockey player with a speed, skill, size, and a strong work ethic.

“She’s a humble kid,” revealed Thomas. “I think the indications show in the first part of the year, she’s going to be a player that can play in any role. We use her in PK (penalty killing) already, lots, but also on the power play. Kind of being well-rounded and can play defence and offence. She has a great shot. She has the potential to score.”

(BEN NELMS for UBC)

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Brielle Bellerive. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics.

Bellerive comes from a family that has always loved playing hockey.

“I have two brothers that play,” Bellerive said. “I wanted to take after them, seeing as it was such a family sport. I’ve always played forward, and it’s definitely competitive in my family, we’re all forwards. Growing up, we always wanted to do better than each other, while supporting each other.”

Younger brother Jordan Bellerive signed a three-year-entry level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins in September. He attended training camp, and is now in his third season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Older brother Matt Bellerive, played for the Vancouver Giants, Red Deer Rebels, Kamloops Blazers, and Mount Royal University.

UBC has no shortage of talented hockey players, it’s more about putting puzzle pieces together, and finding the right combination to get the best out of everyone. Bellerive is going to play a big part in helping the Thunderbirds find success this season.

“She’s a great kid, very humble,” said Coach Thomas. “Works extremely hard, very quiet. Hard to get much out of her. She’s going to be a big presence for us. She competes hard too.”

It’s not easy to find a two-way player that’s defensively responsible, and can pile up the points on offence. When Bellerive and her teammates start clicking, UBC will have another dangerous contributor. Canada West opponents will have another challenge to deal with in shutting down the UBC Thunderbirds.

 

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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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Cassandra Vilgrain in action. Photo credit: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are gearing up for the upcoming Canada West season with an exciting new challenge to help with preparations. UBC will drop the puck on a three game preseason exhibition series against teams from China. UBC will play Team China on Tuesday, September 26, the CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star on Wednesday, September 27, and the CWHL’s Vanke Rays on Monday, October 2.

“Since I’ve been here, it’s probably going to be the best competition,” said UBC Thunderbirds Head Coach, Graham Thomas. “(The) highest level of hockey that’s been here, in preseason. They’re older players, they’ve played in NCAA careers, internationally, or the Olympics. Just the level of competition, to get us ready, get our level up, to see where we are early in the year. It’s going to be really beneficial to us, regardless of what the scores are. We want to compete, and learn with the new group.”

The 2017 Canada West Champions, and USports Final bronze medalists are going through somewhat of a transition period on and off the ice. Much of the strong leadership core that helped UBC win back to back medals at nationals, have graduated from the program. The coaching staff have made adjustments and brought in new players. In her 4th year of eligibility, defender Celine Tardif, will captain the Thunderbirds this season.

“We’ve got a new leadership group beside, Celine Tardif,” said Coach Thomas. “We’ve graduated a lot of our older players, and leaders. The younger players are doing really well. The transfer players, everybody is looking really good. I’d say we’ve got a really good competitive roster again. It’s going to be about learning, and getting those games in early.”

Calgary, Alberta native, Cassandra Vilgrain is entering her second season with UBC. She piled up points last season, and is looking forward to what will be a tough preseason series. The rare opportunity to play against teams from China offers a unique experience university athletes don’t usually get.

“I’m actually really excited,” admitted Vilgrain. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge for our team. I’ve looked over the rosters a bit, there’s some pretty good players on those teams. Aside from what other teams are doing in preparations, this is going to be really good for us, to push our pace, and get prepared for the season.”

Everyone will have an opportunity to take to the ice. It’s important to spread minutes around to test out line combinations, strategies, and work on special teams. UBC will want to make sure everyone gets through the three games series healthy. It’s going to be high level competitive hockey, with UBC looking to show they can defend home ice.

“That it’ll be really good competition for us,” said Thunderbirds winger, Mathea Fischer, when asked what she’s looking forward to. “They’re really good teams, and they’re bringing  a lot of experience. I think that will be a good challenge for us, and good for us to get some competitive games in.”

China is showing a new interest in a sport that Canadians sleep, and breath all year round. The 2017 NHL China preseason games between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are proof that hockey is breaking boundaries and not just defined to North America, and Europe.

“It’s great international relations,” said Coach Thomas. “We obviously have a great city to host, teams come out here, train, and stay. For us, to get to play against players from all over the world, North America, Europe, and China. It’s just an awesome experience, and culture exchange. It’s a lot of fun, and great experience for the girls as a group, and the university.”

The UBC Thunderbirds are all about taking on new opportunities. This preseason exhibition series is a fantastic test to be able to play teams from China, while also putting in the necessary work before the start of the Canada West season. UBC will open their campaign at home on Friday, October 6 vs Manitoba.

 

Tuesday, Sep 26 at 7:00 PM – UBC vs CWHL’s Kunlun Red Star – Father Bauer Arena.
Wednesday, Sep at @ 7:00 PM – UBC vs Team China – Father Bauer Arena.
Monday, Oct 2 at 7:00 PM – UBC vs CWHL’s Vanke Rays – UBC Thunderbird Arena.