EDMONTON – Jerrett Smith scored 8:28 into the first overtime period, leading the No. 5 UBC Thunderbirds to a stunning 3-2 Game 1 win over the No. 1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Smart beat Bears starter Brendan Burke through a screen in overtime, giving UBC a 1-0 series lead over Alberta in their best-of-three semifinal series.
The Golden Bears outshot UBC 53-17, with Thunderbirds starter Rylan Toth turning in an outstanding performance with a season-high 51 saves. Toth also stopped all 24 saves he faced in the third period and overtime.
“They are a very good team. I think last weekend gave us some confidence for tonight. Intensity wise, the playoffs is something else, and our guys were ready to go tonight.” said Toth. “It’s a lot of fun playing in this rink, with the crowd getting on you a bit. And I think that gave our guys something a little extra tonight.”
Friday night’s loss was also a rarity for Alberta, as it marked their first home playoff defeat since Game 2 of the 2013 Canada West Final, a 5-4 OT loss to Saskatchewan.
Matt Revel and Colton Kehler also scored for UBC, who have now won two-straight playoff games in overtime, after a Game 3 win over Mount Royal last weekend in the quarter-final.
Dalton Hamaliuk and Cole Sanford each scored for the Bears in the second period, while Burke stopped 14 of the 17 shots he faced.
The Golden Bears heavily outshot UBC throughout Game 1, leading 15-6 on the shot clock after 20 minutes. Toth, however, was outstanding, turning aside every Bears opportunity.
“I think I did well at staying calm tonight, and finding my sight lines. The Bears do well at getting traffic,” continued Toth. “I also had to trust our guys would block out, and pick up sticks in the shooting lanes.”
The visitors opened the scoring early in the second, as Revel cleaned up a rebound kicked out by Burke on a shot by Carter Popoff.
Hamaliuk tied the scoring nine minutes later, tapping in the loose puck that snuck through Toth in the UBC crease.
Sanford gave Alberta their first lead of the game three minutes later, beating Toth with a rocket from the slot on the powerplay.
The Bears couldn’t hang on to their lead heading into the break, as Kehler tied the game at 2-2 with a seeing-eye shot through Burke’s five-hole with just 18 seconds left in the second.
Alberta peppered UBC in the third, outshooting the visitors 15-2, but couldn’t find their third goal. The Bears also outshot UBC 9-0 to start the overtime frame, also ringing a couple shots off the bar, before Smith ended the game halfway through the first OT frame.
Game 2 of their semifinal series is set for 7:00 p.m. tomorrow night at Clare Drake Arena, with a potential Game 3 going at 7:00 on Sunday night.