T-Birds topple league leading West Van FHC

Make it a seven game unbeaten streak for men’s field hockey.

On Thursday night, the Thunderbirds evened up their season rivalry against the top-seeded West Vancouver FHC, defeating them 5-2 at Wright Field.

“I think overall we’re getting more mature. We played them very early on in the season and now that the boys are starting to understand the system better, we’re playing with a lot more confidence and we’re not rushing things,” UBC head coach Kinder Gill said post-game. “We’re being patient, we’re taking advantage of the opportunities that we get.”

In the early stages of the game, West Van put the pressure on the T-Birds, moving into the attacking zone quickly. UBC’s defensive line kept the visitors outside of shooting range though, with team captain Gordon Johnston, Liam Fannin, Tom Fannin and Floyd Mascarenhas standing up to their quick counter attacks.

Floyd Mascarenhas moves the ball upfield.
Floyd Mascarenhas moves the ball upfield. Patrick Gillin

It would take until the 23 minute mark for either team to break the drought, when a flurry of UBC’s goals would put them comfortably in the lead — within a three minute span, the ’Birds put up three goals.

Johnston, a usual scoring suspect, was the first to break down West Van’s defence — surprise, surprise — on the penalty corner. The play has been exceptionally successful for the ’Birds this season; it’s a rarity for Johnston not to get on the scoreboard with that play in a game.

A minute later, Liam Fannin passed the ball upfield to his brother Tom Fannin. He sent the ball flying into the bottom right corner of the net; Fin Boothroyd followed the ball over the goal line, ensuring UBC doubled their lead.

In the 25th, Johnston would make it three for UBC and two for his personal tally on the night, sending the ball past West Van’s goalie from a steep angle.

When asked about Johnston and fellow defenseman Liam Fannin’s play on the night, Gill had high praise for the team veterans.

“Gordon [Johnston] is the backbone of our team, he’s the captain and he’s one of the top players in the country. Liam [Fannin] really stepped up his game as well, he is an exceptional player, he’s one of the leaders,” he said. “Both of them are actually graduating this year, so it’s going to be a big loss, but right now ... they’re both taking ownership and controlling the back which is great.”

Tom Fannin defends against West Vancouver's Taylor Curran.
Tom Fannin defends against West Vancouver's Taylor Curran. Patrick Gillin

The home side wouldn’t manage to make it through the half without letting in a goal though, as former T-Bird Taylor Curran put one away for West Vancouver with just 25 seconds left in the first.

Thunderbird Vikram Sandhu would be the next to get on the scoreboard 10 minutes into the second, as he rocketed the ball into the top right corner of the net from the left flank.

At the 50 minute mark, West Van would notch a penalty corner of their own, putting the scoreline at 4-2 in favour of the home side.

UBC would manage to extend their lead to three goals once again before the final whistle, as a wide open Fin Boothroyd deflected the ball into the net off an end line pass.

With a final score of 5-2, the ’Birds managed to sink the league’s top contenders, giving them some confidence going into the home stretch of the season.

Next weekend, the T-Birds head to Surrey to face United Brothers FHC. In their last match up, UBC humbled the then table-topping Surrey team with a 4-4 tie at Wright Field. Now, the United Brothers sit behind the ’Birds in the standings. The tables have turned, which calls for a competitive rematch on Sunday.