VANCOUVER – After a 3-0-1 start to the season and a share of first place in Canada West, the UBC Thunderbirds face perhaps their toughest test yet when they host the Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday and Saturday, October 14 and 15 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Along with the Alberta Golden Bears, the T-Birds are unbeaten in regulation to start the new campaign and showcased their fearsome offense – averaging 5.5 goals per game – and a power play that scored four times last Saturday only.
But the Huskies themselves have had a strong start to the season, also posting three wins in their first four games, their only loss against the Dinos last Saturday night in Calgary.
“I think every time Saskatchewan comes to town, it’s a big weekend,” UBC head coach said Sven Butenschon whose team won both games with the Huskies last season. “They’ve had such a good record over the last 15, 20 years so it’s always circled on your calendar and it’s a great litmus test for the group. Saying that, we’re still trying to find our game and to fix things and refine things and get the most out of individuals and the group at the same time, so it’s always going to be about us.”
Last year saw a rare early season outing from the Huskies who lost to the Dinos in the conference quarterfinals. With a new bench boss in charge in Brandin Côté, the Huskies will no doubt be highly motivated to return to the Conference Finals and beyond, a situation they are familiar with having appeared in seven of Canada’s last ten Final Series. -West, winning three of them including 2020 on the T-Birds.
But over the past two years, the matchup between UBC and Saskatchewan has looked a lot different than in the past, with the ‘Birds now firmly establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the country, currently ranked fifth in the new U SPORTS. Top ten list.
Current U SPORTS Player of the Week rookie defenseman helped lead that charge Jake Leewho enters this weekend tied for second in league scoring with four goals and three assists.
“Friday night in Manitoba, he was outstanding, an incredible performance,” Butenschon said of praising his star blue lining. “He took what was given to him in every situation, he didn’t force things, he wasn’t selfish, he just played perfect defensive play and moved the puck into the forwards’ hands and then passed his shots in the offensive zone. For me, I think he still has more to give and he can find another level. He was definitely a nice addition there.
The only thing the Birds will want to focus on going forward is reducing the number of goals against. Despite its two wins in Winnipeg last weekend, Manitoba has scored 11 combined goals in net for UBC, including four on the power play.
But the team is confident that a renewed effort in Zone D combined with strong starts will extend the excellent start to the season in terms of results.
“We want to go out Friday night at the puck drop and try to win the game in the first ten minutes. If the match goes wrong at some point, or doesn’t go the way you want at the start, you can always find out because you were able to start with that. We really try to challenge the guys to start on time Friday night and try to win the game in the first ten minutes and build momentum, and it works.
Friday night’s faceoff against Saskatchewan is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center with Saturday’s rematch at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available now and both games will also be streamed live on Canada West TV.