Women’s hockey started off the home games at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre last week — now, it’s the men’s turn. After two wins last weekend against the Lethbridge Pronghorns, the team is riding a high going into its first games on home ice.
The men's opponent is the Mount Royal Cougars — the only other team with a perfect record so far this year. With that in mind, it should be a serious showdown this weekend at Doug Mitchell.
Here are a few keys to the game for the Thunderbirds:
New year, new crew
Last year, the Mount Royal Cougars were in an adjustment period. With a large amount of turnover from their 2016 season, the roster had its worst wining total in three years at 12-14-2.
That said, the team was still a dark horse in the playoffs and upset the fourth-ranked Manitoba Bisons before bowing out at the hands of Alberta — not bad for a team that was gracing the bottom of the league in sixth place.
This year, the team is another year older and wiser, and have stocked up on WHL players as well. Colton Bobyk, Tyler Helgesen, Kade Jensen and Colton Kroeker round out the professional quarter who now grace the Cougars lineup, and bring a wealth of experience to a roster that is ageing gracefully.
UBC barely scraped past the Cougars in the standings last year. With the visitor’s new roster, the Thunderbirds will need to be weary of new lines and potentially adjust going into the weekend.
Mount Royal has two of the league’s toughest bad-boys so far this season: Hunter Zandee and Mitch Lipon. Zandee has notched 16 minutes in the box, while Lipon has a healthy 14 so far — and through just two games.
UBC, on the other hand, has been playing it pretty clean so far this year — never a bad thing if it means staying at full-strength, but could be a bit of a clash against Mount Royal's enforcers. It’s time for the ’Birds to stand up and hold their ground (legally, please).
Keep them shots up
Nine goals in 81 shots so far doesn't sound like great odds. But, surprisingly, that’s actually above the NHL average — congrats, men’s hockey, keep it up! That said, their goals have come from just six of the 20 players on the roster. Chase Clayton and Tyler Sandhu, two of UBC’s consistent goal-scorers last year, are still without a goal to their names. Yes, it’s only been two games so far in Canada West — that’s a fair point. But, if the team hopes to start the way it means to go on, it would be beneficial to spread the goal-scoring love early on.
It could also erase past bad memories against Mount Royal, who defeated the T-Birds on three occasions when they played each other last season. If UBC wants to have a decent season, these two games will be must-wins to get them going on the right foot.
UBC men's hockey takes on Mount Royal starting Friday, October 12 — yes, that's tonight! — at 7 p.m. at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. They end the double-header on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Doug Mitchell too.