Special teams tell the story as UBC women’s hockey gets past Manitoba

It was a clean sweep this weekend for UBC women's hockey against the University of Manitoba Bisons, which made for a good end to the Thunderbirds’ regular season games at home. The ‘Birds defeated the Bisons 4-3 on Friday night and then went on to win again on Saturday 5-2.

Friday’s game moved the ‘Birds into second place in the Canada West conference. Three of UBC’s goals were scored on their first-ranked powerplay, matched up against the Bisons’ first-ranked penalty kill. Offence won out.

However, it was the Bisons who scored first, only two minutes into the first period on Friday. It would take UBC scoring leader Tatiana Rafter to even things out 20 minutes later. The ‘Birds then took the lead after a snapshot from Rebecca Unrau found its way past Bison netminder Rachel Dyck.

It would take a powerplay for the Bisons to even the score. With Rafter in the penalty box, Bison Caitlin Fyten snapped a quick wrist shot past Danielle Dube. But the ‘Birds quickly pulled back ahead as Emily O’Neill fired a pass from Nikola Brown-John to the back of the net.

In the third period UBC found themselves going in with a 5-on-3 advantage, but were stymied by the formidable Manitoba kill. After a scramble around the Bison goal side, however, Kathleen Cahoon was able to pass the puck to Boyd, who then gave Unrau the chance to score her 13th goal of the season. She made no mistake.

The Bisons managed to score off of a pass in front of the goal, but were unable to even things out and the scoring closed at 4-3.

Bench boss Graham Thomas believed that the team could pick up the pace the next night.

“We were struggling … tonight,” he said. “They pushed hard and found the net at some points, and we had a lot of missed opportunities. What we need is to match their intensity.”

The ‘Birds stepped up Saturday night. The pressure was on, with this being the last home game in regular season for the home team, and the last game for outgoing seniors Rafter and Brown-John.

The Bisons were first to score again, rushing the net on a powerplay just under four minutes into the game. However, Unrau then went on to intercept a pass to score against Dyck unassisted at the 17th minute of the first period.

UBC then tallied their goals with just over a minute and a half between the second and the third. Rafter played a major role in both: assisting Nicole Saxvik who put in her 11th goal of the season, and then later on chipping the puck to Celine Tardif for a slapshot past the Manitoba netminder.

The Bisons were quick to chase, scoring on a powerplay, but Stephanie Schaupmeyer furthered the T-Birds’ lead, firing a shot from the slot to the back of the net. Rafter would then close things out, again on the powerplay, for her 14th goal of the season.

“We worked really hard and they deserved it, it was just go, go, go for the full 60 minutes,” said Thomas.

With the weekend wins, the ‘Birds now sit comfortably in second place in the Canada West, only behind Alberta, who they will face off next week.

It was an emotional game for all, especially Rafter and Brown-John. Before the Saturday game the two were recognized for their accomplishments in front of their family and friends.

“My dad flew in from Winnipeg and it was a bit emotional, and then my aunt and uncle who live here were at the game so it got really emotionally charged during the game,” said Rafter. “We’re building momentum and staying positive, it’s a great second half to the season!”

Unfortunately, Brown-John’s father was unable to be physically present, so instead she FaceTimed him during the celebrations.

“It got really emotionally charged during the game,” said Rafter. “I’m just happy, my linemates help me make sense on the ice and my teammates, well, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

“The emotions helped us a little bit, it kept us charged and motivated for the game,” said Brown-John. “We’re on a roll here, we need to keep this momentum moving towards playoffs and build on it.”