Men’s hockey clinches playoff spot with split against Manitoba

After a 2-7-1 record in the last 10 games, the UBC men’s hockey team finished the regular season with a split against the Manitoba Bisons to narrowly secure a playoff spot.

“Now you get to wipe the slate clean. It doesn’t matter now ... how the season ended. We go and win a couple of games in Calgary and we’ll be all right,” said Adam Shell, UBC's head coach.

In the first game, the T-Birds rallied back from a 2-1 deficit late in the second period with a goal by Jessi Hilton. Nick Buonassisi tallied another goal in the final frame to take the 3-2 win for UBC.

After a crucial win in the first game, the T-Birds kicked off the second game with some powerful offence, outshooting the Bisons 15-7 in the first intermission. 

Still, it was Manitoba that took the early lead 3:50 into the period when forward Jordyn Boyd managed to find a loose puck in the attacking zone before burying it past UBC goalie Eric Williams on an open shot. As the frame entered the midway mark, forward Jordan Dedape extended the Bisons’ lead to 2-0.

Shell believes that goaltending by the Bisons’ Justin Paulic had an important part in Manitoba’s initial lead.

“[Paulic] made some big saves, especially in the first period when they started slow and we were all over them. It could have been 3-0, but instead they had a 2-0 lead,” said Shell.

With four minutes remaining in the first period, Manitoba’s Jonah Wasylak took a penalty for interference. On the ensuing UBC power play, Hilton fired a shot from the far left side and cut the Bisons’ lead in half.

Early in the second, defencemen Kyle Becker got the equalizer for the Thunderbirds, firing a one-timer in front of the Manitoba blue line. Only a minute later, UBC defencemen Devan Fafard took a slashing penalty before the Bisons managed to break the tie with a power-play goal by forward Liam Bilton.

Now trailing 3-2, the T-Birds were desperate to produce a scoring chance as the game entered the final period. During a hooking penalty against UBC’s Anthony Bardaro, Buonassisi had a shorthanded breakaway, but his attempt was stopped short.

With four minutes remaining on the clock, the scoring gap widened as Manitoba’s Brett Stovin found another loose puck in the UBC zone and managed an open shot. Less than a minute later, teammate Shaq Merasty got another goal to secure the 5-2 win for the Bisons.

Despite UBC’s loss, shots on goal were 30-22 in favour of the Thunderbirds.

“We’re all frustrated with every blocked shot, every big save. It’s been like that ... for a while now,” said Shell.

UBC finished the season 11-13-4 and placed sixth in Canada West. They will play the first round of the playoffs on the road next week against the Mount Royal University Cougars.