Thunderbirds drop Winter Thunderland to Alberta Pandas

While the result could have been better, the public skate beforehand and the game itself did generate a positive environment for those in attendance.

Just like the weather outside, the offence for the UBC women’s hockey team has gone cold in recent weeks. In their last three games, the team has scored only once and was entering Saturday’s game on a three-game losing streak. Their last loss happened the previous night to the Alberta Pandas, a team that had outscored UBC 15–1 this season.

So as they headed into the final home game of 2019, you could say that the T-Birds wanted to close out the year on a high note, especially since it was the inaugural Winter Thunderland game.

Similar to the Winter Classic for the men’s hockey team, Winter Thunderland was planned as a festival for the women’s hockey, and was created in part because the women’s team did not have a festival game.

The festivities began early, as there was a public skate before the game and also a ceremonial puck drop by former UBC women’s hockey player Julie Hamilton.

As for his thoughts on the first Winter Thunderland, UBC head coach Graham Thomas said that his team really appreciated the event.

He mentioned that during the public skate his players were even asking him about doing similar events more often in the future.

“We’re really thankful,” he added.

Thunder the mascot plays with a young Thunderbirds fan.
Thunder the mascot plays with a young Thunderbirds fan. Elizabeth Wang

The excitement of the event did look like it helped energize the T-Birds in the opening minutes.

But as the first period came to an end, the Pandas started to dictate the play with their speed and skill, which lead to penalty trouble for UBC.

While on the powerplay, an errant deflection by Alberta forward Autumn MacDougall gave the Pandas a one-goal lead, which they would take into the first intermission.

The T-Birds looked to regain their energy, as they came out in the second period with a tight forecheck. Yet that forecheck was sometimes too tight and led to more penalty trouble for UBC. Midway through the second period, two straight penalties against the T-Birds put them on the penalty kill again.

With the 5-on-3 advantage, the Pandas put pressure on UBC goaltender Tory Micklash and a favourable rebound was put away by Alberta forward Alex Poznikoff to make it 2–0.

Although down 2–0 entering the third, the T-Birds continued to generate quality scoring chances. Yet none of them made it past Alberta goalie Kirsten Chamberlin, who had only let in one goal against the T-Birds this season.

In the final minutes of the game, with goalie Micklash pulled from the net, UBC was still trying to solve Chamberlin.

But a giveaway sent Poznikoff alone on a breakaway and would score her second goal on the night, ending any hopes for a comeback as Alberta would go on to win 3–0.

“[Alberta is] one [of] the best [teams] in the country,” Thomas said after the game. “They slipped a little bit just after the first few weekends and [now] they’re right back to [where] they should be.”

The Pandas have now beaten the T-Birds four times this season.
The Pandas have now beaten the T-Birds four times this season. Elizabeth Wang

Although the previous two weekends saw the T-Birds only manage one goal in four losses, Thomas was more encouraged by the team’s performance this weekend as they head into the winter break.

“We’re going through a little bit of a scoring drought right now, [but] I was really impressed how we played [not only] in the third [period], but how we played overall this weekend versus last weekend,” he said after the game.

We’re excited about the second half and what it will bring.”

The Thunderbirds will try to regroup over the winter break before facing the University of Calgary Dinos in 2020.