2018-12-01- The UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team closed the 2018 portion of their season saturday afternoon with a thrilling 4-3 comeback win over the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The birds who came into the weekend riding a four game win streak, had their momentum snapped in a disheartening 3-0 loss to the Pronghorns on friday night. It was UBC’S first loss in four games, and the reverse for Lethridge who came out victorious for the first time in four. Garrett Hughson was in net for Lethbridge on friday and posted his first U Sports shutout, he again got the start between the pipes for Saturday’s showdown. For the Thunderbirds they rode second year netminder Rylan Toth for the second straight game.
Chase Clayton returned to the thunderbirds lineup for the first time since early in the season. After friday’s game UBC head coach Sven Butenschon said “He’s a guy who skates hard every shift, finishes his checks,” when talking about Clayton. “He’s relentless on the forecheck, he’s going to insert energy and create turnovers for his linemates. He’s going to be a big factor in tomorrow’s game for sure.”
Clayton is a big addition to the thunderbirds, who missed that bit of grit needed to win in their dismal 3-0 performance on friday night.
Most hockey arenas today have glass so solid that it would take a truck to break it. This was not the case saturday at Father Bauer Arena and ubc. 4:26 into the opening frame, a simple rub out against the boards caused one of the glass panels to pop out of its socket. Leading to a nearly 15 minute delay to fix the glass before referees deemed it safe to play again.
Keeping it up:
The Thunderbirds surrendered a four minute penalty in the first period. The call? Spearing, definitely a penalty that is seldom called in today’s game. Anyways, tasked with a lengthy PK,the Thunderbirds killed it off eloquently, not allowing the pronghorns to have any high quality chances. The PK has been a strength for the ‘Birds this year, as they lead the league with a 90% PK percentage.
Breaking the deadlock:
After trading chances and being tied up at eight shots a piece, the pronghorns found the back of the net before the thunderbirds. Lethbridge began the second period going full out on the forecheck, and held the puck in UBC’s end for most of the opening minutes. At 3:05 into the frame, The Pronghorns cycled the puck, before defenseman Spencer Jensen took a low wrist shot from the blueline. The initial shot was unlikely to faze Toth, however the puck was redirected off a Thunderbird stick and fluttered into the back of the net
UBC got a power play immediately following the lethbridge goal, but it almost became disastrous. LEthbridge penalty killer and former Vancouver Giant Dalton Sward pounced on a loss puck shorthanded and walked in on a breakaway against the T-Birds. Fortunately for the home team, Sward’s shot could be heard throughout the stadium as it pinged off the crossbar and out f play. The Thunderbirds failed to score yet again on the powerplay, but staying within one after such a high quality chance was lucky for UBC.
Not too soon after the close shorthanded call, the Pronghorns would indeed find their second goal of the night. It was not nearly as pretty as the breakaway would have been, but it counted the same on th scoreboard. The second goal came as a result of a gritty scrum in front of UBC’s net, with the puck eventually being pushed in by Justin Valentino.
The first half of the second period is certainly one the thunderbirds will want to forget as soon as possible. After surrendering the first goal early in the frame, the pronghorns went on a scoring pree. Scoring three goals in ten minutes. Ubc’s defense looked lost on the third goal, allowing Lethbridge’s connor Sanvido and Brooks Maxwell to waltz in on a two on one against UBC netminder Rylan Toth. Sanvido simply slid the puck along the top of the crease to Maxwell who put it past a sprawling Toth to collect his first goal of the season. The second period was overall terrible for the home team, and will certainly be something that will concern them heading into the christmas break.
Hot Start and Powerplay:
The Thunderbirds came out in the third in search of finding something to take away from the game. Their offensive desire could not be missed. The thunderbirds had an abundance of chances in the opening minute of the third, but despite their best efforts all of them went astray. It wasn’t until tempers began to flare and penalties began to be called did the Thunderbirds find their goal scoring form. After some cheap penalties taken by both teams. UBC got a 5 on 3 advantage with 12:00 remaining in the period. The league’s third ranked powerplay quickly went to work and scored just 12 second into the advantage. Austin Vetterel cleanly won the draw back to defenseman devan fafard who’s one time slap shot deflected off the stick of Jerret Smith and rippled the twine between Lethbridge’s Hughson for the thunderbirds first goal of the weekend.
Best Bird’s Flying:
After a miserable second period, the third was unforgettable amazing for the Thunderbirds. Their defense only allowed three shots in the period, while their offense had a complete awakening. It may have taken 10 minutes to get going, but the momentum built after the first goal was truly remarkable. With three minutes remaining, the thunderbird pulled their netminder and began to unlock the lethbridge defense.
Jerret smith came up another TWO TIMES for the Thunderbirds picking up a hat trick and, spearheaded their charge in erasing the 3 goal deficit the birds had dug for themselves.
His wicked slapshot tormented Lethbridge and led the the Thunderbirds to their memorable comeback. Although the comeback was remarkable, the final minute saw ubc get a penalty, leading to some unnerving moments in the Thunderbirds end. With just second left the Pronghorns nearly found a winner but Toth stood strong in net, making sure the game was headed for overtime.
Best leading from the front:
What happened in overtime was unreal. After scoring three goals in the third, it was only fitting that captain Jerret Smith would net the overtime winner. As a first year captain, Smith grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and led his team into the break on a winning note. After playing nearly six full periods of perfect shutout hockey, Lethbridge netminder Garrett Hughson was not an easy man to get past, but Smith found a way to grind out the goals.
After the game, UBC head coach Sven Butenschon said “it was truly remarkable what we saw today. Obviously it takes a team to win and everybody chipped in but (Smith) just found a way to beat that goalie who had played six periods of almost shutout hockey against us. For him to bury four like that was insane.”
Smith, the hero himself said he had never scored four in a game, let alone in that fashion; but was ecstatic that his team and him were able to pull off the victory.
As a captain, this was the exact performance smith wants to put up night in and night out. Although he is a defenseman, it is surely nice to contributor offensively some of the time.
Take a Break!
This was the last time the thunderbird’s will be in action in 2018. The ‘Birds finish the year firmly in fourth place in the Canada West, while Lethbridge sit in sixth after the weekend split. UBC will resume it’s season on January fourth as they host the University of Calgary in the highly anticipated Winter Classic.