Archive for the ‘UBC Women’s Hockey’ Category


UBC Thunderbirds Mathea Fischer (L), and Ireland Perrott (R) at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, March 27, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Canada West campaign is long finished, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hockey to be played. As we know, the fifth season is always hockey, and that holds true to form even in the Canada West and USports offseason.

UBC Thunderbirds forward Mathea Fischer, is gearing up to represent Norway at the 2018 IIHF Women’s World Championship. The six team tournament takes place in Vaujany, France from April 8 – 14.

“I’m really excited, it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Fischer said. “I’m really excited to be back with the girls. I’m feeling good, I’ve been skating a lot lately, so hopefully I’m ready to go.”

Fischer, and Team Norway will play Austria, Hungary, Denmark, Slovakia and France.

Each team will play each other once. The team that finishes at the top of the standings earns the chance to compete at the 2019 World Championship tournament in Finland. That tournament will be the first edition to include 10 teams, including, Canada, U.S.A, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Czech Republic, and Japan.

“We have a good chance this year to come out with a medal, and maybe even make it to the top-level if we win this,” said Fischer. “We’re really excited. I think for all of us, it’s a really big deal. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time, and for our families as well. It’s a good opportunity for us.” Fischer said before flying off to join up with Team Norway.

While Norway has a strong shot at winning the tournament and earning that coveted spot among the elites in women’s hockey. The third year Thunderbird already knows which opponent could potentially cause some trouble for Norway.

“Right now it’s Austria,” Fischer revealed. “That’s our biggest threat for this tournament.”

Norway has never made it to the big hockey dance. If Norway are able to achieve this feat it would open new doors for hockey in Norway. The team would garner more media, fans, growth, and overall exposure for women’s hockey back home.

“That’s been a goal for us for a long time.” Fischer admitted. “We’ve been close. We have a couple of silver medals in the past, and we had some bronze. We’ve been working really hard to get there, and I think for all the girls, it’s a big challenge for sure, but it’s really exciting. It would mean a lot to the veterans, as well as the younger players if we could do that.”


UBC Thunderbirds forward Mathea Fischer following practice at Father David Bauer Arena on November 29, 2016.

Not only does opportunity allow Fischer more time to play hockey on an international stage, but it also keeps her in peak condition for next fall with the UBC Thunderbirds. There always a fine line between balancing hockey, exams, family, friends, and mental health. Fischer has the full support of UBC Thunderbirds Head Coach Graham Thomas.

“What I love about these experiences for Mathea, she learns to play in big, big situations, must win games against big competition, in a highly competitive environment. You can’t put a price tag on those experiences. It’s so good for her development just on the mental side of it, to be able to play in must win games for her country. It’s like playoffs, these short-term competitions. It’s great for us, because she gets experience playing in those big time games, which are very similar to what we want our players to be playing confident in those types of environments.” said Thomas.

Exams can always wait. This is a wonderful chance to experience a big time tournament with a lot to play for, and a massive reward. Any athlete will tell you they dream of representing their country. It’s not Fischer’s first time with Norway, but it means just as much.

“It’s a big honour to represent my country.” Fischer said glowingly. “I’ve had some great experiences in the past. I think also coming back for next season playing for UBC, this could help me grow as a player and bring back experience that hopefully can be valuable for next season, and the playoffs.”

Spoken like a true hockey player, Fischer already has UBC on her mind as she is a world away with Norway looking to cause upsets, make waves, and win at all costs.


The UBC Thunderbirds during practice at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It’s the most wonderful time of the year for hockey fans, that’s right, it’s playoff time. The puck drops on the Canada West quarterfinal playoffs this weekend. It’s going to be a barn burner between the defending Canada West champion, UBC Thunderbirds and the Mount Royal Cougars. The Thunderbirds just missed out on a first round bye, and as a result they will have to tangle with a hungry Cougars team.

“There won’t be any surprises,” said UBC Coach, Graham Thomas. “We both know each other pretty well, and just saw each other out here. We can never take any team lightly, there a stingy team to get goals on. They’re well coached, hard-nosed, they never quit. There going to come at us, they’re motivated. It’s going to be a good matchup, everybody is tied for first right now.”

UBC won all four regular season games against the Cougars and most recently a pair of games to close out the Thunderbirds home schedule. Three of those games were tightly contested as one-goal victories. The Cougars can hang with the Thunderbirds, but can they come into Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre and win a playoff series?

“If the regular season is any indication it should be a fairly tight series,” said Mount Royal Coach, Scott Rivett. “We expect both teams are going to compete extremely hard, be physical and we are going to have to try and do a good job at minimizing their speed and skill throughout the series. I think both teams have strong goaltending and we suspect that will be at the forefront for both teams this weekend.”

Not only will UBC looking to pick up the pace, but they will also be looking to bust out of a scoring drought. UBC has scored just 9 goals in the previous 7 games. Getting shots on goal, finding ways to create chances, and converting will be imperative if UBC is to have any post-season success.

Thunderbirds leading-scorer, Hannah Clayton-Carroll rippled the net with 12 goals this season. She admits that she’s feeling a bit of pressure to produce when her teams needs her the most.

“Yeah a little bit,” Clayton-Carroll said honestly. “It’s more of a team effort. I kind of just tap it in, but the teams working together and getting the goal as a team. Yeah, hopefully we can do that a couple of more times.”

The USports 5th ranked Thunderbirds will need to put together a solid sixty-minute effort, and possibly overtime as well. Winning the special teams battle, staying out of the box, and firing more pucks on net will make all the difference. Creating those opportunities in the Cougars defensive zone starts with the most common strategy.

“It starts with our break-out,” revealed Coach Thomas. “If we can break-out with more speed, with closer little passes, and support coming up the ice. Also if we’re not getting hemmed in our zone  for extended periods of time. Just getting in front of the goalies eyes, we’ve got to get traffic in front of Zoe (De Beauville). Assuming she’s going to play.”

You might think that Mount Royal comes into this best of three series as the underdog, but you would be mistaken. On any given day, anyone can turn up and win. Sports isn’t played on paper, it’s not decided on a whiteboard, or from a fantasy draft.

The Cougars aren’t afraid of the back-to-back Canada West champions or the silver, and bronze medals UBC won at previous USports Nationals. Mount Royal has fought, and clawed their way into the Canada West playoffs, and they’re coming to make some noise.

“Winning in this league at any time is difficult let alone in the playoffs,” said Coach Rivett “I think the experience we gained last year finely getting the opportunity to play in the post season was huge for us and now just being here isn’t good enough. Learning how to win in Canada West at this time of the year is an important step for our program to take.”

The third-year, Vancouver native and her teammates will be ready to go on Friday afternoon. They’re out to prove that UBC is still a force to be reckoned with. The Thunderbirds and every other USports playoff team in Canada wants to win a gold medal. It all starts in the quarterfinals with a crucial series against a determined Mount Royal team.

“I think we’ve just got to be smart as a team,” Clayton-Carroll said, following practice this week. “Work together, go through our systems, know them well, and make sure that we’re ready to show up Friday, Saturday, and Sunday if needed.”

There is no better atmosphere than playoff hockey. Teams are out to show what they’ve accomplished all season. Playoff hockey separates the contenders from the pretenders,. UBC and Mount Royal are going to bring exciting, fast-paced hockey to The Doug.


(3) UBC Thunderbirds vs Mount Royal Cougars (6)

Friday, February 16 – 3:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Saturday, February 17 – 3:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre

Saturday, February 18 – 1:00 p.m. at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (If Necessary)


UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas (Left) looks on during practice at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Wednesday February 8, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Alberta Pandas and UBC Thunderbirds will meet this weekend at Clare Drake Arena with a Canada West quarterfinals playoff bye up for grabs. UBC comes into the series sitting second in the conference with (18-8-0) 53 points. Alberta is third with (18-8-0) 52 points. A three-point regulation win by the Thunderbirds will clinch a bye directly to the conference semifinals. The hosts however, they will have other ideas.

UBC and Alberta split a pair of games at the end of November with both teams winning in overtime at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. As both teams prepare to renew acquaintances, UBC Thunderbirds Coach Graham Thomas, and Alberta Pandas Coach Howie Draper, both shared their thoughts on what to expect this weekend in Edmonton.

UBC Thunderbirds fifth-year and graduating senior, Kathleen Cahoon offered her thoughts from a players perspective. A native of the ‘Wild Rose Country’, Cahoon will look to lead by example especially with family and friends in attendance.

How is your team approaching these two games this weekend? 

GT: I think the word that comes to mind is, excitement. I think we’re excited. If we aren’t, we better be. This is just a great opportunity regardless of what happens in the outcome. To have two top programs go at it, it’s neat. Most years, it kind of comes down to the last weekend every year. Whether it’s five vs six battles, or one, two, three, four battles. It’s great for our league, it shows how tight it is, how competitive it is. It’s coming right down to the last weekend. There’s a lot on the line, but we just need to focus on the excitement piece, having fun, and excepting the challenge.

HD: Our approach is the same as it has been in previous weeks. Every week we strive to be more consistent than we were the one before. We have to be more consistent through our next three practices. Hopefully, that will translate into greater consistency this weekend against UBC.

KC: I think the biggest thing is sticking to our systems, and playing a full sixty-minute game. I know we’ve struggled with coming out in our second period. I think this week’s focus, we’ve really been barring down, pushing ourselves, and focusing on the details. I think if we get that under wraps, we’ll be good to go.

Are these both must win games?

GT: As far as points go, as far as regular season goes, it is. I think we want to have that mindset that we need to win all of our games between now and mid-March, when nationals are over If we’re blessed enough to go, and earn that spot. Yeah, from now to until then, it has to be the mindset. We’ve got to make sure we’re bringing our best. For big picture, because these aren’t technically playoff games. I think it is more important that we play sixty-minutes, we compete really hard, show a lot of effort, a lot of heart this weekend, regardless of the outcome.

HD: No, I wouldn’t say that the upcoming games are must wins. We want to win them. With first place out of reach for us, our goal at this point is to finish in second. We’ll do what we can to make that happen. If it doesn’t work out that way for us, then we’ll live to fight another day.

KC:  Yeah, I think every game now, we have a playoff mentality. We’re taking everything like that. Everything is going to be a must win coming down the stretch here.

What can you take away from the two earlier games this season between the teams?

GT: If remember the second night, discipline, staying out of the box is going to be important. We lost in overtime on the penalty kill, so just making sure that we’re staying disciplined in those key, and timely situations, and just having awareness in the game of what’s happening. When we can be aggressive, and when we can’t. Those are some things that we’ve learned since then. It’s not just this matchup, all of our games have been close. We’ve learned how to play in those games, we’ve learned how to not play in those games, and I think we’ve got to make sure that’s forefront as well, those lessons that we’ve learned.

HD: That our teams are well matched. We play two different styles, but when you add up what makes each team unique each team’s ability to produce results is very comparative. Literally, either team could win on any given night. That’s what makes these kinds of series fun.

KC: I think the biggest take away is, we’re two really good teams, hard-working teams, and two teams that have a big rivalry. I think we’re just going to use that to fuel us going forward.

What does your team need to do in order to be successful and get results?

GT: I think we’ve got to shoot the puck more. We’ve got to generate more shots. They’ve always been one of the top defences. They have a really good defensive system, their fast. They’ve got good goaltending, we’ve got to make sure our offence is prepared to take on their defences. Secondly, I would say special teams. It’s not so much them, it’s us. We’ve got to be better, our power play has to be better, our penalty kill has to be better. We’ve been working on that this week. For me, we’ve got to make sure we’re generating offence, keeping the puck, and second, we have to win the special teams battle.

HD: As mentioned previously, we have to be more consistent defensively and offensively than we have been previously. We’re getting to where we need to be, but we’ve got more hill to climb. Last weekend, I felt that we had some mental lapses that hurt us. We need to continue to minimize these lapses this coming weekend. Teams like Saskatchewan and UBC, or any team in our conference for that matter, have weapons that can take advantage of mistakes. Having said that, UBC will be pushing to maximize errors on our part and they do that very well, so the goal will be to ultimately make less than they do. Hopefully, that will be enough.

Are these games a precursor of what to expect in the Canada West playoffs? 

GT: Yeah for sure. I mean you can never predict, and you never want to take anyone lightly. It’ll be playoff intensity, and it will for sure have a look of ‘hey the playoffs are here and making sure everybody is at their best’.

HD: I think this weekend series will be a very good indication of what might be seen in the playoffs. Both teams are getting close to the peak of their development. Both teams want to win one of the two top spots in regular season standings. It will have a very playoff-like feel to it.


The UBC Thunderbirds celebrate a 2-1 win over the Mount Royal Cougars at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are in the driver’s seat as they head into the final Canada West weekend. UBC heads out on the road to take on the Alberta Pandas at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton. It’s a crucial matchup that will determine which team earns a coveted first round Canada West playoff bye.

UBC sits second with a an 18-8-0 record and 53 points. Alberta is third, also with an 18-8-0 record, but with 52 points. Saskatchewan holds down fourth spot with 52 points and a 17-9-0 record. All three teams will battle for the second, and final playoff bye. The Manitoba Bisons are on the verge of locking up first in the conference.

The main focus for UBC this week isn’t the Bisons, it’s all Panda, Panda, Panda.

“Yeah, it’s definitely a crucial series coming up”, said defender Madison Patrick. “We have to prepare, and we have to put the work in all week, to be ready to go next weekend. There’s a lot of advantages that come with finishing in the first two spots. It’s definitely important that we come out ready to go next weekend.”

No matter how the puck bounces this weekend. The top four teams have already secured a playoff spot. Playoff seeding, and not saying goodbye to the bye, is the top priority. There is a very good chance Manitoba, UBC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan will have to play each other at some point if they want to win the Canada West championship this season.

“We’re going to have to beat everybody if we’re going to want to win,” said Coach Graham Thomas. “Whether we get the bye, or we don’t get the bye, we’ve just got to make sure that we’re taking care of our game, and making sure that we’re playing at our best. Yeah, it’ll be right down to the wire.”

The Thunderbirds 2-1 win in regulation over Mount Royal University on Saturday afternoon is why they are in the position they are in. UBC’s first regulation win in four contests gave them that extra point to put them ahead of Alberta, and Saskatchewan in the standings.

It was a clutch performance, and an all around team effort when it was needed most.

“Yeah it’s really important,” said Patrick. “It’s a really tight race coming up with playoffs. It’s really important to be able to get that extra point, and win in regulation.”


UBC Thunderbirds forward, Emily Costales (Centre) celebrates her first period goal vs Mount Royal University on Saturday, February 3, 2018.

While the scoring department has produced recent hiccups, that wasn’t the case vs Mount Royal. UBC had an early jump and quickly lead 2-0. The visitors did cut the deficit, but UBC responded by out shooting Mount Royal 17-1 in the third period. A familiar tried, true, and tested formula helped get the offence going.

“Thankfully, we’re moving the lines around,” said game winning scorer, Emily Costales, “So far it’s been good, knock on wood. Hopefully, it keeps progressing from there, and we get more chemistry throughout practices.”

Ending the home schedule on a winning note is exactly what top teams do heading into the playoffs. It’s important to develop, and help create a winning mentality. That’s one of the ways championship calibre teams separate themselves from the pack in the playoffs.

“It’s huge,” admitted Costales. “We really have to dial in right now, put the work in, grind out. Going into the playoffs, we really have to try to gain the momentum.” 

Everyone loves fun, exciting fast paced playoff hockey, and that’s just around the corner. It starts this weekend, because the intensity will have a playoff feel with UBC and Alberta vying for that coveted bye to the Canada West semifinals.


UBC Thunderbirds, Kathleen Cahoon (Left), Alexa Ranahan (Centre), and Cassandra Vilgrain (Right), following practice on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds will close out the home portion of their Canada West schedule with seniors night on Saturday afternoon vs Mount Royal University. There won’t be any bingo, or Antiques Roadshow marathon. UBC’s Kirsten Toth, Kathleen Cahoon, Cassandra Vilgrain, and Alexa Ranahan will be honoured prior to the 2:00 p.m. puck drop at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

The ‘Fab Four’ have meant a lot to the Thunderbirds program over the years. They’ve each given back, improved, and helped UBC become the hockey program that it is today.

“It’s been a second family,” Cahoon admitted. “It’s a home away from home. It’s kind of my escape every time I come to the rink, it’s my favourite time of the day. All the girls, and friendships that I’ve developed, they’re going to last a lifetime. It’s been a huge part of my life.”

The Calgary, Alberta native, has seen a massive transformation since committing to play for UBC. The program that was once known for losing has built a winning model that’s gained respect, and recognition. Cahoon is so much a part of the Thunderbirds identity, that she committed to the team before Coach Graham Thomas had officially signed on the dotted line to coach.

“She’s the first recruit that I recruited that’s graduating all the way through,” Thomas said, proudly. “That’s kind of neat for me and her. She was the first one to help change the program around. It was before I even saw the team, and got the job. It’s kind of sad, it brings you back to a lot of times, emotions, and memories. She’s always brought a lot of commitment, hard work, and effort. She’s been a really good leader, and a teammate. She exudes what a Thunderbird means. She’s been through a lot with this program, and she gives a lot.”

A lot of athletes don’t always feel comfortable in the first university they have decided to play for. Toth, Vilgrain, and Ranahan all transferred to UBC after previously playing hockey at other schools. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery and a fresh start.

Vilgrain was looking to rejuvenate her passion for playing hockey. Now in her second season with UBC, she’s fit in great, and is back enjoying Canada’s favourite past-time. Being able to find a positive place to play hockey, and want to play hockey, has meant the world.

“I see it as a second chance to find my love for hockey again,” Vilgrain beamed. “That’s something that Graham, the coaches, and the girls have given to me. I got to come here, develop as a hockey player, and as a person, better than I would have in my other situation. I’m very grateful for that.”

If your players aren’t excited about coming to the rink, and stepping onto the ice, you’ve not got a succesful team. Teammates feed off of each other’s energy, and commitment. Having Vilgrain loving hockey, and thrilled to score a double overtime penalty shot winner against a heated rival, that’s when you know that you’ve helped, and it’s working out.

“Yeah, when you hear things like that,” said Thomas, upon hearing Vilgrain’s comments. “When a player comes in who is a highly touted recruit… I tried to get her at Syracuse when I was there not knowing, small world, we’d end up back here together. To see a player like that kind of lose the passion for the game, and could have just slugged it out for one more year at UNH (University of New Hampshire) and graduated, not enjoying that. I think that’s a real compliment to our program, team, and coaching staff. A player like that can come back and find her love for the game again, that’s pretty special. It’s been awesome to watch her enjoy it, and love coming to the rink again.”

Also in her second season with UBC, it’s been a similar journey for Ranahan. After transferring from The Ohio State University, Ranahan has found a home with the Thunderbirds. However, you might have been hard-pressed to find her on the ice as she’s usually in the penalty box or in the trainers room covered in ice packs.

If you’re looking for a defender that sticks up for her teammates, isn’t afraid to mix things up in the corners, block a shot, or put her own body on the line, that’s Alexa Ranahan.

“Ranahan is probably the toughest player I’ve coached, male or female,” Thomas revealed. “Last year she played through three injuries, fractured femur, a torn labrum. She’ll battle through anything, she’s so tough and plays a tough game.”

UBC’s 2017 Canada West championship, and bronze medal at USports Nationals was in part because everyone found a role and chipped in. The Thunderbirds played compact, and together as a team. Having Ranahan on the ice creates space and comfort zone for a Cahoon and Vilgrain to freelance, and generate scoring opportunities.

“My favourite moment was winning Canada West,” said Vilgrain. “It was probably the first time I’ve won anything, and also won something with a group of people that I love. Being able to do that together, meant more than the actual championship.”

“I’d have to say last year in playoffs, it was pretty exciting,” said Ranahan, when asked about her favourite moment. “We had a really good run, and we won Canada West, and that was a lot of fun.”

Everyone loves fun, and how much fun would it be for the Thunderbirds and graduating seniors to win another USports National medal, only this time, the one that’s eluded them. It would certainly end on the highest of notes, and solidify UBC as the top program.

“Finishing with a national championship is obviously the end goal,” Cahoon said. “To do it in your senior year is obviously pretty rewarding. I know that we’re on track for that, and we’re working hard.”

“Obviously it means a lot,” said Ranahan. “I think anybody wants that for their last year. I know with this group, we’ll give it our best shot.”

“Yeah, it is the last crack,” Vilgrain answered. “We want to see every single year as an opportunity to win for the program, and for future teams. We want to win of course, but we also want to make sure that we’re doing every single thing to make sure that we have no regrets at the end of the season.”

The 16-8-0 UBC Thunderbirds will be hunting cougars this weekend as they honour four outstanding seniors and try to secure a Canada West quarterfinals bye. There is a lot at stake, and plenty more to come. The next chapter is only just beginning.

UBC Thunderbirds vs Mount Royal University Cougars 

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

Saturday, February 3 – 2:00 p.m. at The Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

UBC WHKY Kenzie Robinson

UBC Thunderbirds forward, Kenzie Robinson following practice on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The UBC Thunderbirds are riding high as they take a six-game winning streak on the road against the Saskatchewan Huskies this weekend. The 16-6-0 Canada West leaders are rounding into form with playoff positioning looming. The Thunderbirds have clinched a playoff spot and are playing like a loose team. They’re finding ways to win, and it’s been a complete team effort from top to bottom.

Forward Kenzie Robinson, has carved out a role for herself as a player that can contribute in multiple areas on the ice. An increase in injuries has resulted in more playing time for Robinson, and she’s taken full advantage of her opportunity.

“She’s smart, she can play defensive, but she has an offensive upside to her,” Coach Graham Thomas said earlier this week. “She has some hands, a good shot, and good vision on the ice. She can definitely play hard-nosed, block shots, battle, and play shutdown against the team’s top players. She’s a two-way power forward.”

The Hamiota, Manitoba native, is a five-tool player that has recently spent time playing with Logan Boyd, and Emily Costales. Robinson is sound defensively, and she frequently puts the oppositions best players in her pocket, thus leaving them on a milk carton.

“I’m more of a defensive girl, but I like to be above the puck, and always be in the right position to do the right things all the time,” Robinson said.

As a former Westman Wildcat, Robinson piled up the points in Manitoba before committing to the UBC Thunderbirds program. Her Dad played college hockey, Mom played ringette, and all three siblings also played sports. When Kenzie wasn’t working with cattle on the family farm, she was rippling the net and striking fear into goaltenders.

“When I recruited her, she was one of the top scorers on her team in the league,” Coach Thomas revealed. “She has the potential, and she’s showing it. Even in the last couple of weekends, with some injuries. She’s a prime example of a player that’s getting more opportunity, she’s getting more chances. That’ll come (offence), we’re not too worried about it. She’ll be a player down the line that will be able to contribute offensively more.”

It’s quite an exciting time for the Robinson and the Thunderbirds. A six-game winning streak just as the final month of the Canada West season is on the horizon is what separates UBC from the rest of the pack. The success that UBC is having is simply down to one key thing.

“I think we’re all just on the same page,” Robinson admitted. “We’ve been going over a lot on communication and preparation. I think it’s really been helping us. The big piece is communication, and I think we’re all doing the right things, and it’s all working.”

If the Thunderbirds can capture another trip to USports Nationals, Robinson could potentially have another medal to add to her 2017 bronze medal back home in Manitoba. UBC has skill, strength, chemistry, togetherness, and they are clicking when it matters.

“We have a really in-depth team this year,” said Robinson. “The back-end is pretty strong, the goaltenders are phenomenal, both of them have been playing amazing, and the forwards have all been contributing, so it’s really nice.”

It takes an entire team to be succesful, and build a winning program. The UBC Thunderbirds are showing that when it’s crunch time, they’re going to be ready for the tough games that the stretch drive brings, leading into the Canada West playoffs.


The UBC Thunderbirds following practice on Tuesday, January 16 in Vancouver, B.C. 

VANCOUVER, B.C – The fourth annual UBC Thunderbirds Winter Classic will take place on Friday night at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. The UBC men’s hockey team will host the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. and $5 tickets can be purchased at the door.

The UBC Winter Classic is a fantastic event that brings the community, campus, and fans together. It’s a great opportunity to pack ‘The Doug’ and create a tremendous playing atmosphere for athletes on both teams. A spirited crowd of 5,500 spectators is expected.

While the Winter Classic is a spotlight event for the UBC men’s hockey program, there has yet to be a Winter Classic game for the UBC women’s hockey program. There have been preliminary discussions about a possible doubleheader event in the future.

“We’ve got some plans in the works with the department on trying to do some festivals or event next year,” Coach Graham Thomas said, earlier this week. “The winter classic has been a tremendous success. I know that Calgary, Mount Royal have done a men’s and a women’s doubleheader at the Saddledome. The universities get behind it, and they pack it.”

The sixth annual Crowchild Classic features the University of Calgary vs Mount Royal University in a series of varsity sports including hockey, basketball, soccer, and volleyball. On the ice, Calgary and Mount Royal will battle at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday, January 25. Previous editions have drawn crowds of 3,000 – 5,000 for women’s hockey, and 8,000 – 12,000 for men’s hockey.

“The challenge right now,” explained, Coach Thomas, “We did sit down with our events people, and we’re trying with the men to set up and doubleheader for next year. Whether that becomes a Winter Classic or not, that’s out of my pay grade. We still want to do something. The men are wanting to do something, different and exciting around that.”

Hosting a potential joint doubleheader down the line would be a logistical obstacle. UBC is the furthest from any Canada West university. It would be challenging to have both a women’s and a men’s program travel to Vancouver to compete in a potential Winter Classic on opposition ice, with fans cheering against you.

What about the men’s hockey program? Is sharing a Winter Classic with their neighbours down the hall something that would be of interest? Having a marquee event is special, if a doubleheader came to fruition, would the men’s team support it?

“Yeah, that’d be fun,” said Coach Sven Butenschön. “Graham and I have talked a lot about getting a doubleheader going. It would be a really great experience for everybody. It would be really neat.”

Captain, and 5th year defender, Wes Vannieuwenhuizen has watched the women’s team and knows what they’re all about. He, like his coach would be all for a women’s Winter Classic.

“I think that would be great.” Vannieuwenhuizen said. “I think the women’s team deserves a lot of recognition. It would be great for them to be a part of the Winter Classic. I think all the guys would really enjoy that.”

Having the chance to lace up your skates, and play in front of a sold out crowd is an amazing opportunity. Thunderbirds forward, Kathleen Cahoon was at the 2017 UBC Winter Classic. She saw firsthand how terrific, and exciting it was.

Canada West Ice Hockey (CIS): Women -  UBC Thunderbirds host Regina

UBC Thunderbirds forward Kathleen Cahoon. Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Athletics.

“I would love to see one,” said Cahoon. “I actually got to see the men’s one last year, because I was out with injury. It was really exciting and everything. It would be nice to see that kind of hype, and promotion coming up for the women’s side as well. I think any women’s team on campus deserves it. We’ve all proven that we’re all good teams. I think equal support is definitely something we should strive for.”

If success and achievements count for something, the women’s program has consistently been ranked among the top hockey programs in USports. The women’s team has won back to back Canada West Championships, and made a pair of trips to USports Nationals. They won bronze in 2017, and silver in 2016. Having a Winter Classic would promote the team to a never before seen level, and provide more awareness for the sport.

“I think it would definitely validate the program for the school,” Kirsten Toth said. “When you talk to people who don’t have a strong sports background. I think they don’t really even realize that there’s a women’s hockey team on campus, and if they do, they don’t realize the success we’ve had over the last five years.”

UBC does promote women’s sports. There are events, and opportunities for fans on campus to attend all sorts of activities over the course of the year. When it comes to women’s hockey specifically, there has never been a specific event organized, marketed, and planned to shine a light on the women’s hockey team.

What would it feel like to have the stands packed for a Winter Classic game?

“It would be a phenomenal feeling,” said Toth. “A feeling that a lot of these girls on the team, probably haven’t experienced before. I know I sure haven’t experienced a packed arena this size. Part of the reason why I haven’t experienced it, and we as a team haven’t experienced it. It’s because something like that’s never been organized for us. Our games are promoted minuscule compared to the other teams on campus. It’s something that we’re working towards bettering for our program in the future.”


UBC Thunderbirds defender Kirsten Toth during practice.

Why is there no Winter Classic for the UBC women’s hockey team?

Toth shares her take.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the risk factor involved and kind of the ideas that are stereotypes surrounding women’s hockey, that we can’t get people in the seats. I think if athletics was to put the time, energy, and resources into planning a women’s winter classic, and it didn’t turn out. I think that they’d be shooting themselves in the foot for it. It’s never been attempted before. From my first year, and I’m now in my sixth year, I’ve seen tremendous growth in terms of getting people in the seats, and support for the teams.”

Finding a way to keep fans engaged and entertained throughout the course of two hockey games could be tricky. That’s where beer comes in. The Ryerson Rams lowered beer prices during their version of their Winter Classic.

Gilles Lepine, Senior Athletics Director of UBC Athletics, wants to create a memorable and special event that creates buzz, and gets people excited on campus. The Winter Classic is thought as the winter, UBC Homecoming event.

Would Lepine like to see a women’s Winter Classic at some point down the line?

“That’s definitely a possibility, but right now, we’re not there. We’re just trying to finalize this one.” Lepine said.

Everyone knows that football is the bread and butter university sport, but hockey is Canada’s most beloved and favourite pastime. Hockey is number one, and it puts people in seats.

“I think you’ve got a point there, I think you’ve got a point,” Lepine agreed. “Hockey definitely, because it’s a national Canadian sport, people love the sport, but it’s difficult to bring those people in every game. Definitely, that’s our challenge. If they come, have fun, next time they will come again, and maybe we can have more than one Winter Classic.”

UBC knows how to put on one outstanding Winter Classic, and they’ve done a great job. No challenge is ever easy, that’s why it’s a challenge. It’s 2018, and it’s time to reach for new heights. The UBC women’s hockey program should be in the next Winter Classic.