VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team (1-4) picked up their first win of the season with a 5-2 triumph over the visiting Alberta Golden Bears (1-2) Friday night at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
The T-Birds’ home opening crowd had plenty to cheer about as Matt Hewitt, fresh off an appearance as the emergency back-up goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, made an impressive 35 saves for his first win of the season while five different skaters earned their first goals on the year.
Up 2-0 going into the third, the Thunderbirds were on their heels to start final period as the Bears, ranked fourth in the country, came out of the intermission hungry.
A relentless Golden Bears attack paid off as Jayden Hart finally beat Hewitt for his second goal of the season getting Alberta on the board at the 3:18 mark, cutting UBC’s lead in half. Hart wired a shot from just behind the hash marks of the left faceoff circle over Hewitt’s shoulder and just under the crossbar.
Several minutes later, a scrum in front of UBC’s net led to an Alberta power play but Chase Clayton stole the puck high in the Alberta zone and scored his first of the season and UBC’s first short-handed marker of the year, to restore the two-goal lead.
Then with nine minutes remaining, the T-Birds went up by three as Adam Rossignol made a beautiful backhand feed down low to Anthony Bardaro who finished with his first of the season at the 10:54 mark.
But the Bears weren’t done yet when Jamie Crooks finished an equally impressive pass from Luke Philp to get Alberta within two with five and a half minutes remaining. Cole Linaker got the other assist for the visitors.
Alberta pulled goaltender Brendan Burke with over two minutes left but after being denied on an odd-man rush just minutes earlier, Rossignol hit the empty net to seal the T-Birds’ win.
The Thunderbirds quintupled their offensive output from their first four games combined but the penalty kill was also a big part of UBC’s win Friday night.
Along with Clayton’s short-handed tally, the penalty kill went a perfect 5-for-5.
The Thunderbirds opened scoring 8:19 into the opening period with Austin Vetterl’s first of the season, a critical start for the home squad.
Five minutes into the second Jerret Smith dangled past an Alberta forward before rifling in his first goal as a UBC Thunderbird.
Smith finished the night with a goal and an assist earning the game’s second star while Rossignol had a three-point night earning first star honours.
Bardaro also had his first multi-point game of the season with a goal and a helper.
With their first win now under their belts, the T-Birds will attempt their first weekend sweep of the young Canada West season with a rematch against the Golden Bears Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.