Columbia athletics

Conference leading ‘The birds return to welcome the Dinos

VANCOUVER – The long winter break has turned out to be a little longer than expected for the UBC Thunderbirds who are finally back in Canada West action this Friday and Saturday January 21 and 22 hosting the Calgary Dinos at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center.

Coming out of the gates of the shortened season with a 10-1-1 record, the first-place T-Birds face perhaps their biggest test yet at the Dinos (9-4-1) who are not sitting just two points while coming off a dominating series swept the TWU Spartans last weekend.

“It’s just another challenge and we’ve learned a lot over the past two years about how to think on the fly and how to pivot in tough situations,” the UBC head coach said. Sven Butenschon whose team had to do a few more pivots over the past two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. “The band handled it pretty well. We haven’t played much in the last two months, so we’re just trying to get the rust off, trying to find our legs, trying to get our timing, to try to feel good because Calgary played last week and they’re going to come here with all that already behind them and it’s going to be a really tough challenge.”

The winter break came at an unfortunate time for the ‘Birds considering their unprecedented first half of the season which saw them climb to the top of the standings and number two in the national standings. Fast forward to mid-January which saw exams followed by the holidays and then a COVID delay, it won’t necessarily be easy to pick up where he left off, although that’s certainly the plan.

“We’re just trying to flip the switch and keep going,” Butenschon added. “Scoring in the rush, being creative offensively, a nice scoring touch around the net and the D getting involved. We want to continue that, involving all five guys up front and not just sitting down and playing patiently, we want to dictate the pace of play, we want to be aggressive.”

Jake Kryski vs. Saskatchewan, Nov. 26, 2021

The ‘Birds know the type of game that brought them success, but they also know the type of game that the Dinos bring, and it’s a ruthless brand of hockey that can make you pay for unforced errors.

“Historically they play hard, they’re physical, they’re smart, they’re organized and they’re patient. They don’t stretch, they don’t run, so we have to be able to handle the puck well, don’t flip the blue line pucks keep ’em out it’s gonna be a game similar to saskatchewan i think for our young guys it could be a real eye opener because everyone’s talking about alberta and Saskatchewan but you add Mount Royal and Calgary to it, everyone is good and capable of winning.”

Friday night marks the start of what is a bit of a sprint to the finish line of the regular season with just eight games left for the T-Birds, including six against teams currently in the top five in Canada West.

Rylan Toth vs. Saskatchewan, Nov. 26, 2021

Just one more win will secure a playoff berth for UBC, but the ‘Birds have their sights set on much more than that. However, given everything that’s happened, it’s really going to be one game at a time as they return to the ice.

Friday night’s faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT and Saturday’s game at 2:00 p.m. PT, both at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center.

Tickets are available but must be reserved in advance. Both matches will also be streamed live on Canada West TV.