‘Birds Play For Canada West Title

Title: ‘Birds Play For Canada West Title
Date: February 28, 2013
Original Source: UBC Thunderbirds
Synopsis: Weekend preview as UBC women’s hockey was off to Calgary for the conference finals.

Vancouver, BC – There’s just one stop left before Nationals, and it’s kind of a big one.

The UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team  will look to cap off their incredible season with a Canada West Championship this weekend as they travel to Calgary to face the top-ranked Dinos in a best-of-three series.

Calgary received a bye through the first round after finishing first in the conference with a 23-4-1 record. Last weekend, they defeated the Alberta Pandas two games to one. Meanwhile, UBC finished third with a 17-7-4 record and defeated the Manitoba Bisons, two games to none, and the Regina Cougars, two games to one, on route to the finals.

During the season, the teams played an evenly matched series despite being nine points apart in the standings. Calgary won three of the four games, with one of those wins coming in overtime. Three of the games were within one goal, ignoring empty netters, giving this series the promise of excitement.

The Thunderbirds, of course, are having their best season ever, orchestrating the greatest single-season turnaround in CIS women’s hockey history. Their first ever win in Calgary was one checkmark on their long list of accomplishments, and Canada West Coach of the YearGraham Thomas is hoping a Canada West title is one more item they can check off.

“It’s been awesome,” said Thomas of the season, and the honour he received Wednesday. “This award, and the girls who were named All-Stars feel the same way about theirs, is considered a team award. Everybody can share in that as recognition of our season.”

While UBC had three conference All-Stars, Calgary counters with two-time Player of the Year in Hayley Wickenheiser. They also have the top student-athlete in Tanya Morgan and three other All-Stars in forward Iya Gavrilova, defenceman Stephanie Ramsay and goaltender Amanda Tapp.

“They have a very good team.,” said Thomas. “We’re going to have to be at our best. To beat the best, we need our players to be at their best. This isn’t a weekend where we can get away with 70 percent. Only 100 percent is going to get the job done.”

Danielle Dube (Vancouver, BC) has gotten the start in all five playoff games so far and is likely to faceoff with Tapp when the series begins. Dube was named a First Team All-Star and has continued her strong season with excellent playoff numbers, including a 1.44 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the match-up will come on special teams, where both teams saw a great deal of success in the regular season. UBC and Calgary tied for the top power play at a 17.8 percent success rate, but Calgary has been far more successful in the playoffs thus far. On the penalty kill, Calgary ranked first while UBC ranked second, although the Thunderbirds have killed off penalties at a 95 percent success rate in the post season.

“We’re going to have to be disciplined,” said Thomas. “Our specialty teams will have to outperform theirs, it’s a big key to the match-up.”

While both teams have qualified for CIS Nationals in Toronto beginning March 7, the Canada West title is a much more immediate goal. Neither team can afford to look ahead to next weekend quite yet, and it would behoove each team to try and head into Nationals hot, anyway. Still, it’s understandable that a young team may get too excited and look ahead.

“This is important to us,” said Thomas. “We have to make sure this weekend is our focus.”

The series opens on Friday at Calgary’s Father David Bauer Arena. The puck drops at 6:00 pm PST. on Friday and Saturday and 3:00 pm PST on Sunday if a third game is necessary.

All games will be webcast live at canadawest.tv.

Schedule
Game 1 – Friday March 1, 6:00 pm PST
Game 2 – Saturday March 2, 6:00 pm PST
*Game 3 – Sunday March 3, 3:00 pm PST
* if necessary

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