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

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UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas on Wednesday, March 22.

VANCOUVER, B.C – A fantastic UBC Thunderbirds season, playoffs, and national championship tournament finished up on Sunday, March 19 in Napanee, Ontario. The Thunderbirds capped off the 2016/2017 campaign with a bronze medal at USports Nationals. They defeated hosts, Queen’s in the quarterfinals before a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to McGill in the semifinals. UBC rallied the next day, and beat Concordia 2-0 to take a medal back to Vancouver.

UBC Thunderbirds Coach, Graham Thomas is happy with his team’s performance.

“Really proud, really proud,” said Thomas. “You’re right, it wasn’t what we wanted ideally. It had a different feel to it. We competed really hard. I guess winning that very last game on the very last possible day you could play, versus losing last year. I know it’s a bronze, not a silver and not a gold. It still had a different feel. It had a very rewarding feel for our seniors, and for our players to finish up on a real positive note.”

With eight graduating seniors, this was the year that UBC really wanted to win a national championship, but that’s also the goal of seven other competing teams. UBC was seeded first, followed by the three conference winners across Canada. The heavily stacked McGill Martlets were seeded fourth, which was a bit of a head scratcher.

UBC and McGill played a terrific game. There was back and forth action, a specialty teams battle, physical intensity, and brilliant saves from goalkeepers, Amelia Boughn (UBC), and Tricia Deguire (McGill). If you weren’t closely following the tournament, you might of thought it was a gold medal game. It was not. It was a chance to go to the gold medal game.

Having two conference winners playing in a semifinal game, with the other bracket featuring two conference runners-up playing in the other semifinal, makes no sense. You should be rewarding the Canada West and RSEQ winners. They should have played the opposite runners-up. UBC vs Concordia, and McGill vs Alberta, this didn’t happen.

“The format needs to change to have something to address what happened, said Thomas. “They (McGill) should have been a two or three seed. The semifinals, we had the Canada West Champion, and the Quebec Champion playing in a semifinal knockout. On the other side, we had the two runners-up from the exact same two conferences playing on the other side.”

The USports National Championship tournament seeding below shows the conference winners, 1-4 and the runners-up, 4-8. The teams in BOLD all won quarterfinals games. If a re-seeding had taken place before the semifinals, UBC and McGill would not have faced each other in the semifinals.

1. UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West Champions)

2. Guelph Gryphons (OUA Champions)

3. Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS Champions)

4. McGill Martlets (RSEQ Champions)

5. StFX X-Women (AUS Finalists)

6. Alberta Pandas (Canada West Finalists)

7. Concordia Stingers (RSEQ Finalists)

8. Queen’s Gaels (Hosts)

“It was setup that way, and it makes sense,” said Thomas. “You keep the integrity of the pool together, but they do need to have an exception in there. Not always are you going to have the same two conferences runners-up and champions making the top four. If that does happen, there should be a re-seeding. It does not make any sense to have the two champions play. You earn the right to be a champion in your league. For us it would have been Concordia. Then if you look at it our way, we get rewarded for being the champion and a top seed, versus now having to play McGill, which arguably could of been the gold medal game.”

Essentially it was busted brackets after exciting upset quarterfinals victories by Alberta, and Concordia. A great achievement for the Pandas and Stingers programs. It shows that anyone can be upset, but then having a 6 vs 7 in the semifinals, that’s bonkers.

“Again, you can’t go back,” said Thomas. “I’m not complaining, but I do think they need to look at it in future years. It makes sense.”

UBC came into the tournament with a 23-4-1 regular season record, and a 4-2 record in the playoffs. A team that was peaking all season, mowing down the competition, and then facing a few speed bumps in the playoffs. Those bumps (and bruises) tend to take a toll when you are always facing your opponents top game. UBC had injuries at nationals as did every other team. They also had a flu bug that struck several players at an inopportune time.

“It ran through five or six of our players,” revealed Thomas. “We weren’t able to play (Mairead) Bast very much. Her injury was catching up to her. She didn’t play in the bronze, and we she didn’t play very much in the semifinal game. We ran into some injuries, but I think a lot of teams are that way. I give our group a ton of credit for just playing. I thought we played really well.”

It’s a long haul from start to finish. Players get injuries, rehab, and sometimes play through injuries choosing to fully recover after the season and playoffs. UBC was hit hard by injuries all season. It’s possible that a healthy Thunderbirds team may have had more success at nationals.

“I think it did affect us,” admitted Thomas. “At the same time, it made us stronger. It’s a fine line. We got a lot of other people in there who got a lot of valuable game time experience. It’s hard to say that’s what it was for sure. So much has to go right in order to be national champions. In one game knockouts, and how long our season goes, so much needs to go right.”

Going into next season, UBC should be primed for another year of positive results, and more success on and off the ice. Eight seniors will be moving on, but they have definitely left their mark on the Thunderbirds. The next wave will have learned from some of the best players to play for UBC. Getting back to nationals will be tough, but you sure wouldn’t want to bet against UBC with the way the program has developed and thrived.

“We feel confident in our returning group,” said Thomas. “That we have it in us to get back there again, and to have a year similar to what we had this year, but it is going to be a challenge. We’re going to be gunned after even more for being back to back Canada West champs, and being bronze medalists, and medalling back to back.”

UBC wants to be a team that’s mentioned in the same breath as successful programs like McGill, and Alberta. They want to build a team that goes all the way and wins gold. They’re certainly knocking on the door, and others have noticed. UBC has become a university with excellent education opportunities, and a top women’s hockey program.

“It really has changed the scale of our program now,” said Thomas. “I credit that to the players that are in this program, and have been in this program. They’ve changed the culture here. It’s a winning culture now. We’re a program that’s going to be challenging for a championship or a national championship every year. It was a big statement year. It’s really exciting, it’s really gratifying. I’m very proud of the girls and what they’ve done.”

As the Thunderbirds prepare for exams, warmer weather, and exciting offseason plans. They’ll still have a focus on how they can get back to the big dance, and win the ultimate prize.

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UBC Thunderbirds goalie, Amelia Boughn in action vs Queen’s Gaels on Thursday, March 16.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It’s going to be a marquee matchup on Saturday afternoon at the USports Nationals, when the UBC Thunderbirds take on the McGill Martlets. The winner will earn a spot in the championship final on Sunday at the Strathcona Paper Centre, in Napanee, Ontario.

Thursday’s quarterfinals saw the number one ranked Thunderbirds dispatch the hosts, Queen’s Gaels with a 2-1 win. McGill’s Gabrielle Davidson scored a pair of goals to help the number four seed Martlets defeat StFX 3-1.

This will be the third meeting between UBC and McGill in the last year. The Thunderbirds won 4-2 in a quarterfinals game last year at nationals. It was an intense, and physical game that had a lot of feeling. UBC also defeated McGill 3-1, during a preseason tournament this past fall.

UBC Coach, Graham Thomas is expecting a far different game on Saturday.

“There a different team than we saw in September,” said Thomas. “They didn’t have (Gabrielle) Davidson, and (Mélodie) Daoust in the lineup. They’re back ,and their seniors are really strong players for them. We’ll have to be very sharp. They’ve got a strong freshman goalie (Tricia Deguire). It’s going to be two really good teams going after it. Great program, and we’re excited for the challenge.”

Neither coach wants to provide bulletin board material for the other team. While a rivalry might be brewing, McGill Coach, Peter Smith wasn’t taking any bait.

“Yeah, we play them three times in around a year,” said Smith when reached by phone. “We’re happy to play them again. They’re a good team, and we like playing good teams. It’s all about what happens on Saturday. We’ll be ready to go, and they’ll be ready to go.”

Smith isn’t concerned with the Thunderbirds number one ranking they’ve had since October. McGill won’t be in awe by the Thunderbirds accomplishments. Once the puck drops, rankings and awards make no difference.

“It’s similar to playing any team,” admitted said Smith. “We want to be prepared and be ready to go. We don’t spend a lot of time looking at rankings and seeding.”

McGill’s high-powered offence features 2017 Player of the Year finalist, Mélodie Daoust, Olivia Atkinson, Marie-Philip Lavoie, Gabrielle Davidson, and rookie Jade Downie-Landry. Martlets goalkeeper, Tricia Deguire was named 2017 USports Rookie of the Year. McGill is stacked, and will look to play a high-tempo game. Playing a full sixty-minutes remains a question for a team that’s still very young.

“I think the hallmark of our team, we want to play fast, and play with good structure,” said Smith. “We need to stick to the plan from start to finish, and play fast. We’re a fast team and that’s what we want to do.”

UBC will feature their own dangerous offence. Defender, Kelly Murray was named to the All-Canadian First Team, and Cassandra Vilgrain was named to the All-Canadian Second Team. Captain, Stephanie Schaupmeyer, Nicole Saxvik, and Kathleen Cahoon are also ones to watch. Saxvik scored the wining goal vs Queen’s with 2:43 left in the third period.

“They’re a very good team,” said Saxvik, when asked about playing McGill. “It’s going to be battle. We have to do our homework. Hopefully the puck will go our way.”

The McGill program has a long storied history, and a high prestige across Canada. They’ve always been a program that other universities want to emulate with multiple national championships. UBC is looking to take the next step with their first national championship.

“It’s two really competitive programs,” said Thomas. “McGill is one of the most decorated programs in Canada. They want to keep their dynasty going. You have a program like ours, up and coming, and we want to accomplish what they have accomplished.” 

The Thunderbirds will be looking to get some rest for goalkeeper, Amelia Boughn who battled food poisoning on the eve of the tournament. Boughn toughed it out, and made 17 saves vs Queen’s. She earned praise while playing on adrenaline, and not much else.

“We’re really happy to get some food and fluids into her,” said Thomas of Boughn. “She’s just incredible. Yeah, it was great to see. It was her call. She’s had a quarter of a bagel, and a little bit of chicken noodle soup, and not a lot of sleep. It’s important to give her some rest.”

UBC and McGill will be looking to see which team can post a ‘bagel’ in net, and which team can turn up the offence. It’s going to be an exciting game with two fantastic programs battling for a spot in the USports Championship game.

USports National Championship Schedule. All Times: ET

Friday, March 17

11:00 a.m. Quarter-final 3: No.3 Saint Mary’s vs No.6 Alberta

3:00 p.m. Quarter-final 4: No. 2 Guelph vs. No. 7 Concordia

7:00 p.m. Consolation 1: Queen’s vs. StFX

Saturday, March 18

11:00 a.m. Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4

3:00 p.m. Semifinal 1: McGill vs UBC

7:00 p.m. Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4

Sunday, March 19

11:00 a.m. 5th-place game

3:00 a.m. Bronze

7:00 p.m. Final

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The UBC Thunderbirds vs Saskatchewan Huskies. Photo Credit: Josh Curran/Ubyssey

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds will battle the Saskatchewan Huskies for a spot at USports Nationals in Kingston, Ontario next month. The best of three series gets going with Game 1 on February 24, at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Canada West will send two participants to the championship tournament and UBC and Saskatchewan want in.

On paper you might expect UBC to easily handle the Huskies, but it won’t be as easy as just showing up. The 23-4-1 Thunderbirds split four games with the Huskies this season. Saskatchewan has won two of the last three meetings, and also handed UBC their first loss of the season on October 8.

UBC Coach, Graham Thomas is hoping his team can turn the tide.

“It’s going to be a really good series,” said Thomas. “They play us hard, and pressure us. From how the last game went, they beat us in overtime. We’re looking forward to getting a little bit of redemption on that, and we’re fired up to play them.”

Coach Robin Ulrich, helped guide Saskatchewan to a 15-13-0 record. A pair of big wins over the Lethbridge Pronghorns earned the Huskies home ice advantage in the quarterfinals vs Regina. Saskatchewan defeated the Cougars 4-3, and 2-1 to set up a series with UBC.

“The Thunderbirds are a very good team,” said Ulrich. “They’re big and strong and bring a lot of offensive power. We’ve had close games with them this year and some good results. I think it’s going to be a great series and hopefully, some very entertaining hockey for the fans.”

Star forward, Kaitlin Willoughby has carried the Huskies this season, and especially during the playoffs. Her hat-trick, and series clinching goal the next night, means that UBC will have to keep a close eye on the fourth-year sniper. Goalkeeper, Cassidy Hendricks stood on her head making 59 saves vs Regina. She has defended the Huskies net with outstanding form all season. UBC will have a tough task ahead.

“Yeah, (Kaitlin) Willoughby’s dangerous,” said Thomas. “She’s a playoff performer. Plays well under pressure and she has a lot of good speed, and she can score. We’ll have a plan to shut her down, and play her defensively tough, and Hendricks. We’ll have to have our goalie coach break down the games and analyse her. She’s a good goalie, she’s from B.C. – It’s her last year, she’s got the most minutes ever played in Canada West. She’s a good goalie, big, moves well, athletic.”

The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan native, knows she’s going to be getting a little extra attention from the UBC defence. If Willoughby can find open space, and create for herself and her teammates, she could be a massive difference maker for the Huskies.

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Saskatchewan Huskies forward Kaitlin Willoughby. Photo Credit: Saskatchewan Huskies Athletics.

 

“Whenever I play the Thunderbirds, I know it is going to be a very physical and intense game,” said Willoughby. “They tend to have a bigger team than us height wise which makes the physical aspect of the game much harder. When the game becomes a battle physically I need to make sure my emotions stay in check and don’t let myself get frustrated.”

Do Kaitlin Willoughby and Cassidy Hendricks have to steal the series for the Huskies to advance to nationals?

“We need every player in the line up to bring their best games of the season this weekend,” said Ulrich. “The strength of our team lies in our ability to play a good team game and get contributions from our entire line up.”

UBC Thunderbirds captain, Steph Schaupmeyer has had many battles with Willoughby and Hendricks. She’s well aware that it’s going to take multiple sixty-minute efforts and perhaps overtime to knock off the Huskies. Eliminating what Saskatchewan does best and keeping puck possession in the Huskies zone will go a long way in helping the Thunderbirds advance.

“They’ve got great goaltending, I think we know that,” said Schaupmeyer. “Hendricks is a fifth year experienced goaltender. That’s going to be a big challenge for us. They’ve got a few girls that can put the puck in the net. I think it’s going to be keying in on some of those players, but also just playing our systems strong, and playing our systems well.”

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UBC Thunderbirds Captain, Stephanie Schaupmeyer. Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics.

 

This is the final Canada West playoff run for eight UBC Thunderbirds senior players, including Schaupmeyer who set a record for most Canada West regular season games played with 139. She’s as durable as they come, and will do anything to help her team win. That’s exactly the kind if player you would want leading any hockey team. Playoff appearances can be rare, and Schaupmeyer shared that with her younger teammates.

“It’s so exciting, honestly, I keep trying to tell the younger girls just to take it in. It may seem like this happens every year, but it doesn’t. Being first in Canada all season is a huge honour that doesn’t just happen by chance. We’ve worked for it, and I’m just excited to see how it plays out in the next couple of weeks, because it’s going to be good.”

Who exactly faces the most pressure to pick up a pair of wins this weekend with a berth at USports Nationals at stake? Both teams will also want to win the Canada West Championship the following weekend, but one has to have an eye on nationals, right?

“All of our focus is on this weekend’s series,” revealed Ulrich. “We know we have a big task ahead of us. That being said it would obviously be very exciting for us to have the opportunity to represent Canada West and our school at Nationals.”

In her first season, Kaitlin Willoughby was part of a Huskies team that made it to CIS Nationals during the 2013-2014 season. Saskatchewan earned a bronze medal. Willoughby scored the winning goal to capture the Canada West title. It’s a feeling she and her teammates want to capture again.

“It would mean so much to our team and to me personally,” admitted Willoughby. “It has been a goal of ours since day one. A goal of mine has always been to win gold at a national championship. In my rookie year we came short of that goal, so it would be amazing to get another shot at the gold!”

UBC won the Canada West title last season and they will be wanting to repeat as back to back holders. The Thunderbirds surprised folks, and earned a silver medal at CIS Nationals in Calgary, last spring. The window could be closing with eight graduating players. Thomas and his team have found a unique way of dealing with pressure that comes with winning.

“Yeah, there’s no question there’s pressure,” said Thomas, “But we talk about pressure as a privilege. We have to approach it that way, Hey, it’s fun, where excited, looking forward to the challenge. We’re looking forward to utilizing our talents, and our abilities. We’re not relying on what we’ve done in the year. We know it’s a new year. Yeah definitely there is that pressure. We talked about it, addressed it, and were ready to handle it.”

It’s going to be a fantastic playoff series with big goals, timely saves, tight checking, and one winner heading to nationals. Alberta and Manitoba are playing for the same thing in the other Canada West semifinal. The winner of that matchup will no doubt have their hands full with either UBC or Saskatchewan in the Canada West final.

UBC Thunderbirds vs Saskatchewan Huskies

Game 1: Friday February 24, 7:00 pm PT

Game 2: Saturday, February 25, 7:00 pm PT

Game 3: Sunday, February 26, 3:00 pm PT  (If necessary)

 

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Jaedon Cooke.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It takes an entire roster of committed, determined, and skilled players to bring a team to new heights and accomplishments. The UBC Thunderbirds are a team that’s achieving goals never before seen in the programs history. The 23-4-1 Thunderbirds are on a playoff bye week as they await a Canada West semifinals opponent next weekend.

The week away from competitive hockey allows Coach Graham Thomas and his assistants time to prepare and game plan for the semifinals. Players get extra practice, recovery time from injuries, and team bonding at the beach.

Rookie forward, Jaedon Cooke is one player who is glad to be injury free and ready for a long playoff run. On Friday, January 27, Cooke, was hit from behind during the first period vs Lethbridge. Pronghorns forward, Aislinn Kooistra, should have been ejected for her reckless and dangerous hit. Cooke was taken to the hospital for a neck injury. An MRI scan would later clear Cooke. She returned to play on Friday, February 10 vs Mount Royal.

“I was just super excited to come back,” said Cooke. “It feels like forever when you miss a weekend for anything, especially from an injury. It was really exciting to be back, and to play with the girls again. It was a lot of fun.”

The Souris, Manitoba native, has had an unfortunate run of injuries. Cooke’s last season was derailed in December when she required re-constructive surgery on her shoulder. This season she has dealt with concussions. The Thunderbirds are a close-knit family and everyone was quiet worried when Cooke went into the boards.

“Yeah, that was definitely scary,” said Thomas. “You never want to see a player carted away to the hospital. We were worried about her. She seems to be doing well now.”

The way that particular game was called was not safe for players on both teams. If players are getting hit in the head, checked from behind, elbowed, someone needs to be tossed. It doesn’t matter which team, but a tone needs to be set by those in charge. Yes, there is no hitting in women’s hockey, but the battle is still there, and players can get seriously hurt.

“Lots of times when people talk about women’s hockey, they think that it’s not aggressive because it’s women’s hockey,” said Cooke. “If you watch a game, you can see that even though we don’t have the big hits, there’s a lot of aggression all the time. They compete to win, and it definitely shows on the ice.”

Cooke has been a ray of sunshine for the Thunderbirds. She’s played 19 games in her inaugural season. She has a strong compete level, great spirit, and she has been a terrific addition to the Thunderbirds penalty killing.

“She brings a lot of leadership in her own ways,” said Thomas. “She’s fully bought in. She’s extremely bright as a person; her high school average was ninety-nine percent. It makes a big difference in so many ways. She has a good moral compass. Good character, brings a ton of energy. She’s very competitive and extremely loud. She will cheer on her teammates no matter how she’s playing or what’s going in a game. She’s team first, very committed, dedicated, and eager in wanting to learn.”

When UBC takes to the ice to Feb 24 – 26 you might have trouble tracking number 98. Jaedon Cooke is the quickest player on the Thunderbirds. She’s a speed burner on skates that gets in on the fore-check, moves the puck, and plays sound defensively. Her scoring will eventually come, and for now Coach Thomas is pleased with her game.

“She’s the fastest player on the team, and we have a pretty fast team. Her speed is incredible. She’s not been in an offensive role, but that doesn’t mean she can’t contribute down the line. She’s finding a role on the PK and contributing, using her skills. She is going to be a good five-year player for us as she gets older.”

The Thunderbirds have an excellent ability of being able to get the best out of each and every player. That makes them a top Canada West contender as they strive to make further history.

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UBC Thunderbirds Redshirt Freshman, Tiffany Chiu.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds finished the Canada West season with an impressive 23-4-1 record and top spot in the conference. UBC has earned a playoff quarterfinals bye and will sit back and watch the first round of playoff action this weekend. Coach Graham Thomas will prepare his team for a semifinals matchup against the lowest remaining seed. The best of three series will take place February 24-26 at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Vancouver native, Tiffany Chiu, is one player you won’t see during the Thunderbirds playoff run. The redshirt freshman is still a big part of the UBC Thunderbirds, but not eligible for any game action.

“Basically you’re not on the roster,” said Chiu. “You get to practice, and do everything with the team, except for play games, or go away when we play away games.

Chiu is often the first player on the ice for practice and the last player to leave. She stays behind for extra shooting drills, and rounds up all the pucks at the end. You can find her in the stands with a smile on her face cheering on the Thunderbirds at every home game. Some students might be overwhelmed by first year university life, but not Chiu.

“Personally for me, with my goals in school and hockey, it’s a perfect fit for me, especially for first year,” admitted Chiu. “Transitioning from high school to university, and being in sciences as well. I think I needed this year, just to adjust to high level hockey and school.”

Coach Graham Thomas couldn’t be more thrilled with Chiu’s work effort on and off the ice. It takes a team player to put the teams benefits above themselves. Chiu has been able to contribute, show her character, and support her teammates throughout the season.

“She’s been phenomenal,” said Thomas. “Honestly, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t whine. She shows up everyday and just works, and really pushes the girls and makes them better. She fills in, especially in the last three, four weeks when we haven’t had enough bodies. She’s capable, skilled. I can’t say enough good things about her, she works really hard. She had a really good semester in school. She’s contributing in so many different areas. It also sends a really positive message to our team about filling rolls.”

You might find some players in the coaches office asking for more ice time, special teams duties, or this, and that. Thomas hasn’t heard a bother from Chiu. “Look at Chewey, she’s not complaining, and she’s not playing,” said Thomas.

The former Arbutus School Avalanche sniper, will eventually get her opportunity to play for the UBC Thunderbirds next season. It will certainly help having a year of school completed. Chiu will already be familiar with practices, tactics, linemates, fitness, video, and media.

“Full player next year,” said Thomas when asked about Chiu’s status next season. “She’ll have that year under her belt, school wise. That should be a little less stressful. She’ll be stronger, more skilled. I think it’s going to be a win, win. She could play for us right now, but we’re creating this development system. Players come in a little bit older, they’ve got a year under their belt, they don’t have that freshman stress in that very first year of school.”

Stephanie Schaupmeyer, Emily O’Neill, Haneet Parhar, Nicole Saxvik, Kelly Murray, Katie Zinn, Jenna Carpenter-Boesch, and Melissa Goodwin will all graduate following the playoffs, and possible USports Nationals. Having Chiu in the UBC Thunderbirds environment learning from those veteran players will help with the transition next season.

UBC has always been the school of choice for Chiu. She grew up right around the corner from the campus and graduated from Crofton House School. She was over the moon when she found out she would one day be representing the UBC Thunderbirds program.

“When Graham called me and told me he wanted me on the team, I was just so excited,” revealed Chiu. “I just love UBC. I just love the campus. We got toured here a bunch with our high school just looking at schools. I think the program and the hockey is good for me.”

The UBC Thunderbirds program is in good hands for years to come. Players will obviously come and go, but having a prospect like Tiffany Chiu bodes will for the UBC Thunderbirds. With eight graduating players, the time is now, but the future doesn’t look too bad, eh.

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

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are flying through Canada West competition with a 20-3-1 record as they inch closer to making history. UBC is four points shy of locking up a first place finish in conference play, and thus earning a bye straight to the Canada West semifinals. A spot at USports Nationals in Kingston, Ontario would go through Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center where Coach Graham Thomas and his players are 13-2-0.

The injury ravaged Thunderbirds have four games left as they’ve been stricken by a massive injury bug. They finished Friday’s 1-0 victory over Lethbridge with nine forwards on the bench. The next afternoon, they defeated Lethbridge 3-0, with only sixteen available skaters. Whether it’s concussions, necks, wrists, groins, knees, groins, or feet, the Thunderbirds have been in the infirmary all season.

How much of a goal is it to secure first place in Canada West?

“Absolutely, it’s a goal in so many areas,” said Thomas. “We (would) set history, and try and lock down first place for the first time ever in this program. Also, what that gives us is home ice advantage, it gives us a bye, and that is crucial for us. Some bodies we might get back, some bodies we could be losing, we’re not sure yet. That bye is going to be crucial for us, we’ve got to keep our focus on that and keep pushing.”

Cassandra Vilgrain and her teammates will travel to Regina this week to take on the Cougars on Friday, and Saturday evening. Earlier this season, UBC defeated the Cougars, 4-1, and 3-2 in Vancouver. It’s not out of the question to think that UBC could take maximum points while putting the Cougars back in hibernation. Vilgrain’s 5 goals and 17 assists have been a welcomed scoring punch, and she knows that history will be there for the taking in Regina.

“We definitely think about it,” admitted Vilgrain. “We’re not so much focused on the history of things that like the fact that we haven’t been there before. (It’s) just keeping our spot, keeping winning games. We want to keep our number one spot, so it’s definitely something we think about.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward Cassandra Vilgrain, Photo Credit: Rich Lam UBC Athletics.

The Thunderbirds will be facing a tough challenge within their own locker room, finding enough healthy players to compete will be a process. Players have been asked to fill in and play out of position. Shiayli Toni had to play defence vs Lethbridge. The second year forward did quite well, and looked terrific breaking up a dangerous Pronghorns two on one opportunity. Coach Thomas couldn’t be more made up by his teams recent performances.

“We’re down to nine forwards in the game,” said Thomas. “We’ve got six D (defence) Toni’s playing D (defence) for the first time back there. We’re filling in holes in places, and roles wherever. They’re playing with line combos they haven’t played with, and just rolling out there. We had three centres out there sometimes. I’m just really proud.”

Defence has been a strong point for the Thunderbirds this season, the team is allowing 1.6 goals per game, and striking fear in opposition goalies by scoring 3 goals per game. Fifth year defender, Katie Zinn, scored the game-winning-goal on Friday. Zinny, as she’s affectionately known by her teammates, has a one step at a time approach down the stretch.

“It would mean a lot,” said Zinn, when asked about securing a first place bye. “It would be the first time in history, but we try and just focus on our day-to-day, rather than focus on the goal at hand. It’s been working for us so far, so we’ll probably stick to that game plan.”

With the flu bug going around, ice packs at the ready, and the odd crutches, the UBC Thunderbirds are a focused and determined team. Most teams would wilt under a lengthy injury list, fatigue, and juggled lines, but not the UBC Thunderbirds. They have history to make, and you just know they’ll find a way to lock up first place.

Notes: UBC closes out the regular season vs Mount Royal University on February 10 and 11 at The Doug.

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UBC Thunderbirds Hannah Clayton-Carroll (Left), and Kathleen Cahoon (Right) supporting Bell Let’s Talk day.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds skated in line rushes during a lengthy practice on Wednesday morning at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Coach Graham Thomas was putting his players through the paces as they prepare to host the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Friday (7:00 pm) and Saturday (4:00pm) at UBC.

It’s been a busy January for the Thunderbirds who have been helping to raise awareness for mental health issues in the memory of Laura Taylor. On Bell Let’s Talk day, one player stood out during practice, second year forward, Hannah Clayton-Carroll was rocking the Bell Let’s Talk day toque. The bright blue addition was noticeable on top of her helmet, and it also matched the patented Thunderbirds blue jersey.

It’s a small gesture, but something Clayton-Carroll felt comfortable embracing.

“I just think it’s important for everyone to know that it’s something not heavy in the media, it just needs to become something more popular for people to talk about. Wearing the toque is something small that I can do to help out other people. It’s a great thing to do.”

All around campus, athletes from the Thunderbird flock have been doing all that they can do to spread awareness, talk, and listen to people struggling with mental health issues. Coach Thomas couldn’t be more happy by the response his team has received, it’s even moved him to perhaps, one day, jump aboard a social media platform to help out.

“We’ve had a great response,” said Thomas. “We’re so proud of the girls, they’re really buying into it. It’s obviously close to home for us, it means a lot to us, this year especially, and from now on moving forward. It’s a great campaign, it’s awesome. I need to personally learn how to… I don’t have twitter, I don’t have any of that, I’ve never hash-tagged before. I need to take advantage of this campaign with Bell. In all seriousness, our girls are doing a phenomenal job. We’re just really proud of them.”

West Vancouver native, Haneet Parhar, has been blown away by the overall positive feedback from fellow UBC students, and faculty. Sometimes it only takes one group of strong-minded people to speak up and get the puck rolling. The Thunderbirds have done just that, in Taylor’s honour. They’ve shown that it’s not all about goals, assists, academics, and the latest Snapchat filter. It’s about caring for friends, family, others around you, and sometimes complete strangers.

“We’ve got a lot of feedback,” revealed Parhar. “It’s extraordinary to hear (that) people we’ve never even talked to, we didn’t even know, come up to us, and say, wow, thank you so much, this means so much to me, and we love that you guys are doing this. It’s making a difference with people that we don’t even know. It’s really important.”

The hashtag, #BellLetsActuallyTalk was trending on twitter on Wednesday afternoon. It’s a signal that indicates more needs to be done to raise awareness and progress talks surrounding mental health issues, all year around. #BellLetsTalk day is a fantastic initiative from Bell, but what about the other 364 days of the year?

Communities like the Southeast Asian, East Asian, and others don’t necessarily communicate very well within those cultural societies. If you have a mental health issue, it can often be perceived as a weakness, impairment, or bad omen to share your struggles with others.

Parhar is familiar with this notion, and she wants to help make a change.

“Yeah it’s very important,” admitted Parhar. “I personally, unfortunately have first hand knowledge of that. It’s a stigma that is not just within one culture, or one society, it spans all over the world. It is extremely important, because it’s something that is not talked about outside of more progressive societies, so it’s very important.”

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UBC Thunderbirds forward, Haneet Parhar supports Bell Let’s Talk Day.

The UBC Thunderbirds family is one close-knit family that’s doing big things to help reach other people so other families don’t suffer in silence. Retiring Laura Taylor’s jersey on January 6, having her family in attendance, and raising money to help others is a lasting effect that will be felt beyond this month. The Thunderbirds have been brought closer together as a team, and in turn, Coach Thomas has learned a few things himself.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said Thomas, “We’re always looking at ways to get better. For me as a coach, it’s an area you can always get better in. You can’t control everything, and there’s definitely an onus on the person who is going through a tough time to tell somebody, but there’s also a part of that, where it’s on the rest of the team, coaching staff, and everyone to be aware to try and ask some questions sometimes, and reach out sometimes or try and do as much as we can do. We can’t be there all the time, and I recognize that. We can’t follow them around and babysit them, they’re adults. At the same time, yeah there’s things for sure we’ve taken away, or me personally have taken away to be better and more aware.”

Hannah Clayton-Carroll vows to wear her blue toque everyday to help others. Although she’ll probably have to wash it sometime, she, like her teammates are showing just how much mental health awareness needs to be in the spotlight all year round.

“I’ve been on social media a lot this morning,” said Clayton-Carroll, “I’ve noticed that half of my friends tweeting #BellLetsTalk, and re-tweeting all of that. It shows that everyone in the community really cares about this issue. They all want to battle towards it, and help end the stigma.”

If more organizations, businesses, and people come together, like the UBC Thunderbirds, one day, a day devoted to raising awareness for mental health issues might not be needed as much as it is now. Until that day comes, the UBC Thunderbirds will be there to lend a helping hand, and they might even help Coach Thomas figure out twitter.