The third annual Winter Classic is almost upon us and once again, we as a student population need to ask ourselves the most important question of all. Is the UBC men's hockey team perennially cursed to be humiliated at home by a Canada West rival, or is this the year where they surpass all expectations and take their rightful place as the best men's hockey team on campus?
Our two resident hockey experts weighed in on the team's chances this Friday. Who is right?
Matt Langmuir: A third straight Winter Classic loss is imminent
Simply put, the UBC men’s hockey team have had a dismal season so far. Things aren’t looking good for the squad ahead of the Winter Classic.
After promoting NHL veteran Sven Butenschon to interim head coach at the beginning of the year, hopes were high for the rejuvenated Thunderbirds squad. However, things have not fared well for Butenschon’s team. Seventeen games into the season, the ’Birds are 6-10-1 and are not currently in a playoff spot. Only the University of Regina Cougars have a worse record than UBC.
In addition, the team has never won a Winter Classic game. In 2015, the team blew a 3-0 lead and ended up losing 4-3 to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in overtime. Last season, they dropped a 4-1 decision to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. Going into their third annual Winter Classic — with an expected attendance of over 5,000 — the ’Birds will need to prove they can handle the pressure. But given UBC’s record this year, a third straight Winter Classic defeat is imminent.
Moreover, Manitoba is currently holding on to the sixth and final playoff spot in the CIS, and will be desperate to hold their position. Although the ’Birds are 1-1 this season against the Bisons, they have not fared well against lower seeded teams so far this year. They have lost twice to Regina this year — a team that’s only won three games all season. In addition, the team is definitely lacking the momentum they need to succeed, having won just two out of their last eight games.
With these points in mind, it is clear that the ’Birds stand little chance of getting by Manitoba at the Winter Classic.
Bill Situ: Don’t lose hope yet!
If you think the ’Birds are again doomed for failure, think again.
The season may not be looking too pretty, but with the Winter Classic on the horizon, you can expect the T-Birds to be playing harder than they ever have.
The Winter Classic isn’t just any ordinary hockey game. With an average attendance of more than 3,000, it is easily one of the biggest sporting events that happen at UBC every year. It’s going to be a big showdown, so if there ever were a game during the season for the team to take seriously, then this would be it.
UBC may be second to last in the Canada West conference, but a closer look at the numbers will show that the ’Birds actually stand a fairly decent chance.
Manitoba sits only one spot above UBC in Canada West and earlier this season, the ’Birds did manage to record a 3-2 win against the Bisons, so the T-Birds really aren’t battling that tough of an opponent.
T-Bird forward Anthony Bardaro is also currently the third leading scorer in Canada West with 11 goals, three of which came during last week’s doubleheader against Alberta. If he and his forwards can muster enough firepower, then getting goals on Manitoba goalkeeper Byron Spriggs — who has averaged 2.84 goals against this season — won’t be much of a challenge.
Simply said, don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Sure, beating the Bisons probably won’t come easy, but the ’Birds do have more potential than we think they do.