Title: Thunderbirds Rout Cougars, Headed to Canada West Finals & Nationals
Date: February 24, 2013
Original Source: UBC Thunderbirds
Synopsis: Post-game story on the Feb. 24 playoff game between UBC women’s hockey and Alberta.
VANCOUVER – Momentum.
That was the key for the UBC Thunderbirds, as they carried the momentum from Saturday’s night’s triple-overtime victory into Sunday’s deciding contest, opening the scoring just 24 seconds into the game.
“I’m absolutely speechless,” fifth-year co-captain Kaylee Chanakos (Nanaimo, BC) told CiTR-FM after the game. “It was a special moment. Right from the first shift, we thought, ‘we could do this, we’ve got this game.’”
“It feels unbelievable,” agreed her co-captain, fifth-year Kaitlin Imai (Coquitlam, BC). “I’m so proud of this group and how far we’ve come.”
When Tatiana Rafter (Winnipeg, MB) beat Jennifer Schmidt on the opening shift, it marked a seamless transition from Saturday’s hard-fought victory with their backs against the wall. With the 1-0 lead, the Thunderbirds never looked back, cruising to an impressive 7-1 victory over the Regina Cougars. The victory hands UBC the series, two games to one, and sends them to the Canada West Finals next weekend.
For the first time in program history, UBC will also head to CIS Nationals in Toronto in two weeks. Canada West receives two berths this year, so clinching a top-two finish ensures the Thunderbirds will be there. First, they’ll have a chance to win the first Canada West title in program history, as they’ll travel to Calgary to face the Dinos. Calgary defeated Alberta two games to one in their semi-final.
“This team,” said head coach Graham Thomas. “They’re just meant to be. They’re so determined and such a family. Everybody is pulling for each other and everyone believed. It was a complete team effort.”
“I’m so proud of them right now. They never quit. They’re such a special group.”
UBC quickly followed up on Rafter’s goal with two more within eight minutes, as Stephanie Schaupmeyer (Kelowna, BC) and Nicole Saxvik (North Vancouver, BC) each scored. Schaupmeyer would finish with four points, giving her a conference-leading eight points through five playoff games. Her line with Rafter and Saxvik combined for four goals and five assists in the game, an incredible feat for a trio with a combined five years of experience.
“They were fantastic tonight,” said Thomas. “They’ve had good chemistry before but tonight they just took over.”
The Thunderbirds managed the seven goals on 42 shots, peppering Schmidt and, briefly, Toni Ross, including 20 shots in the opening period. Though UBC converted on just one of their nine power play opportunities, the constant pressure wore the Cougars down quickly.
After the second Thunderbird goal, Regina pulled Schmidt for Ross. When UBC answered with their third shortly after, Schmidt returned for the rest of the game. Regina would answer with a goal of their own in the first, but Emily Grainger (Sooke, BC) made sure there were no doubts heading into intermission by burying a rebound with the man-advantage to make it 4-1.
Rafter would add her second goal in the second period, followed up 45 seconds later byNikola Brown-John (Monte Lake, BC), who sniped a wrist shot into the top corner from alone in the slot. Regina native Genevieve Carpenter-Boesch (Regina, SK) then wrapped things up with a nifty shorthanded marker to make it 7-1.
Danielle Dube (Vancouver, BC) stopped 24 shots to improve her conference-leading playoff goals against average to 1.44 and her top save percentage mark to .941.
Late in the game, Regina took a few undisciplined penalties, showing their frustration at their play. Those penalties included a late hit on Schaupmeyer that appeared to shake the freshman up.
After two even and hard fought games Friday and Saturday, the Cougars couldn’t muster the energy to match the Thunderbirds for a third time. The game marks quite the comeback for UBC, who lost game one on Friday and were unsure how they would respond to their first loss in nearly a month.
“We weren’t panicking,” said Chanakos. “There was no fear. We kept thinking, ‘we got this.’”
Sunday’s game puts an exclamation point on what has been an incredible season for the Thunderbirds, as they’ve orchestrated the greatest single-season turnaround in CIS women’s hockey history. With just a single win in 2011-12, UBC set a program record with a 17-7-4 record, then proceeded to host a playoff series for the first time, win a playoff series for the first time and, now, reach the Canada West Finals and CIS Nationals for the first time.
“We wanted to change the culture here,” said Thomas. “We wanted to gain respect for this UBC program, and this is a huge day for the UBC women’s hockey program.”
The schedule for next weekend’s Canada West Finals is still to be determined, but the series will be held in Calgary’s Father David Bauer Arena.