Behind the Boards: What to expect from this weekend’s Winter Classic

This year’s Winter Classic promises to be a hot contest between two familiar foes: there will be no love lost when the UBC Thunderbirds take on the Calgary Dinos this Friday.

Although the teams have already faced each other this year, this will be the first time the Dinos return to the Point Grey peninsula since last year’s playoff quarterfinal matchup, which Calgary won 2-1.

If the stakes were not high enough already, the Winter Classic atmosphere pushes the anticipation over the edge.

“It’s very different,” said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon about the event, adding that it reminds him of the atmosphere that he experienced while playing in the NHL. “It’s loud, it’s electric. It’s such a fun night and the guys love playing [in] that one.”

UBC captain Jerret Smith agrees.

“It’s just exciting because everyone is coming out to the game and everybody is cheering,” he says. “It’s a fun game to play in and there’s so much adrenaline going through your body.”

Salomon Micko Benrimoh

While the Thunderbirds will not need any extra motivation, execution could be the deciding factor for the team playing against an Alberta side that was recently ranked ninth nationally. The Dinos also completed a sweep of the Lethbridge Pronghorns this past weekend.

When asked about the Dinos, Butenschon compared them to their provincial rivals in terms of style of play.

“They’re a similar team to [the Alberta Golden Bears]. They can skate, they’re quick [and] they play a good team,” he explained.

While the Dinos enter the game on a three-game winning streak, UBC enters having lost four straight and are still looking for their first win in 2019.

“We just really gotta starting clicking,” Smith said. “Just get everything in order and start playing the right way and be hot heading into playoffs.”

For Smith, having a healthy roster this time around is an added bonus.

“Everybody’s back now so it’s kinda exciting. The last couple years, it just seems like everybody is always injured at some time, so it’s kinda nice having our full lineup back.”

One match-up that could determine who wins this game will be the battle between the posts.

UBC’s Rylan Toth has been the starter in 13 of the 20 games this season for Thunderbirds and is likely to get the nod on Friday. He has been solid through most of the year and will be required to be so again against the Dinos.

For Calgary, it will be either Matt Greenfield or Jordan Papirny in net. Together they have combined for five shutouts this season.

The big question for UBC will be whether they are able to generate more offensive production against either goalie, as they have only scored five goals in their previous four games.

“It’s frustrating mentally when you don’t get on the scoresheet and you don’t see the shot clock on the scoreboard go up, and you let the goalie get a shutout,” said Butenschon after his team was shutout 6-0 against Alberta this past weekend. “That stuff is hard so we got to find a way to generate more scoring chances and finish.”

And what better way is there to break out of a slump than playing a rival in front of a sold-out Doug Mitchell crowd? Puck drop is at 7 p.m. on Friday, but festivities start early evening!