Preview : Women's hockey pucked up for playoffs

It’s time to get pucked up. The UBC women’s hockey team is kicking off their playoff campaign as they face off the University of Regina Cougars this weekend at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbirds Sports Centre.

After finishing in second place in the league, the ’Birds earned a bye through the first round of the playoffs and are starting off in the semifinal match on home ice. The ’Birds will play a best-of-three series against the Cougars on Friday and Saturday night, as well as Sunday afternoon if needed.

The ’Birds came off of a loss in their last match against the University of Manitoba Bisons, but the main concern was with goaltender Danielle Dube who suffered a collision during the game. During a rush in the second period, Bison Alanna Sharman crashed into Dube, who had to be taken off the ice in a stretcher. She was immediately sent to the hospital and underwent tests.

While the ’Birds haven’t been able to top their eight-game winning streak from the 2013-2014 season, they have shown significant improvement. We can only hope that history doesn’t repeat itself as the ’Birds were in the same situation last year. They hosted the Bisons after a bye week in the semifinals. That ended in heartbreak when the Bisons managed to win the second game in the series at the last minute and went on to defeat the T-Birds on home ice. 

The last time the ’Birds played against the Regina Cougars ended in a split between the two. UBC won the first night with a 3-0 shut-out, but the Cougars bit back the next day with a late 3-2 win. 

The ’Birds are looking good for the game though. It’s undeniable that bench-boss Graham Thomas has taken the ’Birds under his wing and turned them around from a lovable underdog to a top-ranking team in just under four seasons. After taking everyone by surprise and winning the Canada West playoffs in 2013, Thomas and the team have gotten closer and closer to making that happen again.

It's still unclear whether Dube will be playing this weekend or not. Since she’s had the week off to recover, there is a chance that the second-ranked goalie, Samantha Langford, will play in Dube's place. Langford is ranked third in Canada West — one spot below Dube — and is just as capable of fending off the Cougars. 

On the offensive front, Regina boasts two of the top five scorers in the league with one of them being rookie Jaycee Magwood. But UBC’s own forwards shouldn’t be left out. Veterans Rebecca Unrau and Kathleen Cahoon are in the top 10 and while it takes a lot to fill the holes that previous seniors have left behind, they’re doing a pretty good job with 24 and 21 conference points, respectively. 

There is also the advantage of home ice. While it didn’t help last year, it’s always comforting to play in front of a crowd of familiar faces. This also gives UBC some initiative to send supportive students to the games to cheer the ’Birds on. Since tickets are only $4 and the game usually ends by 9 p.m., it’s worth stopping by to see how we’re doing. 

It’s about time that the ’Birds brought home some company for their 2012-13 CWL banner. Let the games begin!