Men's hockey falls twice in weekend before Winter Classic

The T-Birds men’s hockey team lost back-to-back this weekend against the Saskatchewan Huskies, with a 6-2 loss at home on Saturday night. 

“It was a rough game for us. I think Saskatchewan outplayed us,” said Thunderbirds defender Wes Vannieuwenhuizen. “We had our chances, we just didn’t capitalize and we gave them too many opportunities. We’ve just got to play a harder game — harder on the sticks, harder on pucks, make the simple plays.”

UBC was the first to find a player in the box when forward David Robinson took a hooking penalty just five minutes into the first. UBC held the Huskies off though and Robinson came back onto the ice with no damage done to the 0-0 scoreline.

Minutes later, Saskatchewan had the first convincing shot of the game when forward Kohl Bauml rocketed a shot on UBC’s net. Teammate Levi Cable latched onto the rebound and put the puck towards Thunderbird goalie Eric Williams, but a big save from the goalie kept the Huskies off the scoreboard. 

The Huskies kept coming at the Thunderbirds, causing a pile up in front of UBC’s net minutes later. Saskatchewan forward Parker Thomas and UBC’s Devan Fafard got coinciding penalties for the altercation — Cox for goaltender interference and Fafard for the ensuing roughing. Neither team managed to score while the two were off the ice. 

The Thunderbirds finally made some convincing movement forward late in the first when forward Joe Antilla got on the end of a pass from Scott MacDonald and a quick shot off, but Saskatchewan’s goalie kept it out of the net. 

With seconds to go in the first, UBC’s Anthony Bardaro got the last chance of the period, barely missing the right post. 

The two teams headed back to the dressing rooms tied at 0-0.

Six minutes into the second frame, T-Birds fans came to life in the stands when Kyle Becker was controversially penalized for a double minor — interference and unsportsmanlike conduct. The Huskies got the first goal of the game on that powerplay that was scored by Bauml with 28 seconds left in Becker’s penalty. 

Shortly after, Huskies player Josh Roach was sent to the box for hooking. UBC capitalized early and brought the score to 1-1 with Bardaro splitting through Saskatchewan’s defence and putting the puck in the back of the net. The period ended with one goal a piece.

The Huskies moved back into the lead early in the third with Matthew Spafford scoring just over a minute into the final period. UBC countered once more when a Jessi Hilton shot banked in off the right post with the assist credited to Nick Buonassisi. 

After that, it was all Saskatchewan who scored another four goals from then to before end of the game. Bauml started off the streak off midway through the third with Cox following up shortly after off of a nice cross net pass from a teammate. 

In the last minute, Saskatchewan notched another two goals to close out the game. Cable put the puck into the empty net after UBC pulled their goalie to bring their lead to 5-2 and Cameron Blair netted the final goal with just over 30 seconds left in the game. 

UBC ended the match with a tough 6-2 loss.

“I don’t know if it was better than yesterday. We definitely have a ways to go. We’ve got a lot of improving to do,” said Vannieuwenhuizen.

The ’Birds play again next weekend at UBC in their Winter Classic matchup against the University of Lethbridge. Previously this season, UBC had an overtime loss against the team. 

“We’ve got a big week of practice,” Vannieuwenhuizen said about the team’s preparations for next weekend. “A lot of guys played in the WHL and other junior leagues, so it’ll kind of be like going back to that. We just have to turn it up this week in practice, bring up the intensity and be ready for the game.”