Behind the Boards: A Cougars loss means there will be first-round men's playoff hockey at UBC

You probably know what each of the UBC men’s hockey players was thinking as they skated off the ice at the Co-operators Centre in Regina, this past weekend.

Fresh off a 2-0 win over the University of Regina Cougars, the team had managed to end the regular season with an 0.500 record — but that likely mattered little to them as they left the ice.

No, what was on the minds of every player once they got into the locker room was likely where they would be playing in the Canada West quarter-finals.

They already knew they would be playing the Mount Royal Cougars. But the Cougars still had one game left against the Lethbridge Pronghorns later that night that would decide which team would get home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

Because they owned the tiebreaker, all Mount Royal had to do was earn a single point against Lethbridge and they would get to host the Thunderbirds in Calgary — a place where UBC hasn’t won this year. So you can imagine that the T-Birds were scoreboard watching late Saturday night to see whether they would be spending another weekend East of the Rockies.

It was just after 10 o’clock in Regina when they were finally given the answer: Lethbridge had defeated Mount Royal 6-2 — the Canada West quarterfinal matchup between the Mount Royal Cougars and the UBC Thunderbirds was going to be played on the Peninsula.

For those unfamiliar with playoff hockey, try to think of it like a first kiss.

There is the growing excitement as the event approaches, the rush of hormones once it begins and a celebration afterwards if it goes well. Yet for every successful Romeo, there are many teams like Paris who are left to stew in their disappointment.

While the city of Vancouver is no stranger to playoff disappointment, UBC knows this feeling much too well as they lost 2-1 in the quarter-finals series last year against Calgary despite having home-ice advantage. The year before that, they got swept in the first round.

Perhaps it’s the year to change that.

“In playoffs momentum can change pretty darn quick,” UBC head coach Sven Butchenson told UBC Athletics after his team swept Regina, shifting his focus to the task that lies ahead.

Yet if there is one team that is used to momentum swings, it would be UBC. They started the year with four straight wins, then lost eight of their first nine games in 2019 and rebounded to end the season on a three-game winning streak.

Still, the Cougars are no pushover as they split the season series against UBC with the home team winning every game.

“We know that it‘s going to be a completely different ball game on Friday,” said Butchenson. “We still need to improve on certain aspects of our game and every day in practice this week is going to be important to get ready.”

The first game of the series is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the second game on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, a third and deciding game will be played on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. All games will take place at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.