'Birds fly into playoffs with solid weekend against Saskatchewan

Playoffs baby.

Canada West’s current team to beat — UBC's men's hockey team — gave the Saskatchewan Huskies their first consecutive losses of the season with a 3-1 win on Saturday, continuing their now six game win streak. The win follows a huge 5-1 conquest on Friday night, which boosted UBC into a playoff spot.

“I don't want to use any clichés but... I feel collectively everyone has elevated their play to a man,” UBC head coach Sven Butenschon said of his team's performance following Saturday's game.

Butenschon also noted the solid game from goaltender Rylan Toth, who earned his first Canada West win — made even more special coming against his hometown.

“He’s a really good guy; he’s had some tough luck this year but we always knew he had it in him. When [Matt Hewitt], your fifth-year guy, is on a roll [you've] just got to wait your turn. He’s a real relaxing presence back there and you know, as a coach, I like it and I’m sure the players do too.”

For Toth, the game was an easy one to get hyped up for. “Yeah, it was easy to get up for games like these, especially against your hometown team," he said.

The Huskies outpaced and outshot UBC early, leading to the only goal of the first period eight minutes in as Josh Roach cut the crease leading to a rebound put away by MacKenzie Johnston.

Riley Guenther was one of three goalscorers for the 'Birds on Saturday.
Riley Guenther was one of three goalscorers for the 'Birds on Saturday. Lucy Fox

The T-birds picked it up though, as passing plays caught Saskatchewan defenders out of position creating back-to-back slashing penalties. UBC ended up outshooting their opponents 11-10 by the end of the first frame, including a shot at the buzzer that hit the crossbar at a peculiar angle.

A great start to the second for UBC saw Riley Guenther find himself in the slot to put in their first goal. Physicality ramped up through much of the period as each team took a couple of bad penalties. But, the T-Birds pushed through and controlled much of the play in the second outshooting the Huskies 25-19. On the few chances UBC did give up, Toth stayed strong through a couple key saves that allowed for a 1-1 tie going into the third.

A penalty-laden third allowed for UBC’s second goal on a bomb from the point by Jerret Smith. Eight penalties in all slowed the pace of play down significantly, which was just fine for UBC as it allowed them to cruise to another win as Chase Clayton sealed the game with an empty-netter with two seconds remaining.

With the points this weekend, UBC has clinched a playoff spot and are in good position to host a first round playoff series, although Butenschon remained even keeled on the topic.

“Last year we were pretty ecstatic when we clinched [the playout slot]. This year, I think we are so focused on the process and getting better every day that we're not even looking at the big picture," he said. "[We have] a business-like mentality right now... [the players just] want to come in and work hard and be better than they were yesterday.”

UBC will seek to continue their win streak next weekend as they go to Calgary to play the Mount Royal Cougars.