Posts Tagged ‘Graham Thomas UBC Thunderbirds’


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.


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.




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.”


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.

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