This week’s not-to-miss match: Women’s hockey open their season against Lethbridge

Last year, UBC’s hopes of a long playoff run ended in the Canada West semifinals against the Saskatchewan Huskies. After two disappointingly close losses — 2-0 and 2-1 respectively — in their match up series, UBC was sent packing by their biggest Western competitor.

This year, the team returns with all but three of their players from last year’s roster — they said goodbye to fifth-years Cassandra Vilgrain, Kathleen Cahoon and Kristen Toth, but have filled their gaps with promising rookies. Not only that, but many of their big names are still on the roster, including Mathea Fischer, Celine Tardif and Hannah Clayton-Carroll.

In their home opening series that starts this Friday, the team faces a well-known and perhaps deceivingly beatable Lethbridge Pronghorns team. Last year, UBC defeated the ’Horns on all four occasions of regular season play. Though much of their roster returns as well, a year of added experience could be just what Lethbridge needs to finally get away from their plethora of one-goal losses — including all four against UBC in 2017/18.

What does UBC need to do to get their season started on the right foot? Here are a few keys to not only the match up, but their season as a whole:

Stay out of the box

UBC finished off their 2017/18 season with the most penalties in Canada West — 144, to be exact. Against the ’Horns, UBC had 22 penalties called against them, through which their opponents scored 1 goals throughout their 4 match-ups. Though their penalty total didn’t translate into extreme goals-against numbers, it’s time to tone down the roughness in favour of a fair, even fight. Lethbridge scored 10 goals on the power play last year, three of which came from returning senior Tricia Van Vaerenbergh who is the one to watch out for if the T-Birds do fall into their old habits.

Use the rookies

Though nine of their ten top scorers have returned this year, two of UBC’s five rookies will also be able to lend a hand on the forward line. As a member of the Greater Vancouver Comets last year, Emma Hall contributed 13 goals in 32 games. Ashley McFadden joins UBC from St. Mary’s Academy, where she led the team with 22 goals towards her total of 49 points.

On defence, the UBC newbie trio are also heavy hitters, and will be welcome additions to the roster: Sarah Thon from the Neumann University Knights, Saskatoon native Hannah Koroll and BC-born Rylan MacKinnon.

All five will add even more depth to UBC’s bench, and will be ones to look to throughout the season to give everyone some much-needed breath-catching time.

Rack up the goals

Simply put, if UBC wants to play it safe against the Pronghorns and not risk any last-minute antics, they need to rack up the goals. With all four head-to-heads ending in just a one-goal difference last year and two similar rosters hitting the ice, it’s time for UBC’s goal-scorers to really bring it in their first games. Not only will it set them on a positive start to their season, but it will shock the rest of the league and set the right tone moving forward.

On the flip-side, Lethbridge has a habit of scoring on UBC within the first half of the game. Containing the energy and keeping everything tight on defense through those first 30 minutes could be crucial to taking home two wins this weekend — and doesn’t everyone love some good wins?

UBC faces off against Lethbridge on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.