‘Birds and Huskies battle for supremacy in Canada West
VANCOUVER – Seeking their first conference title in five years, the UBC Thunderbirds host longtime rival the Saskatchewan Huskies for the Canada West best-of-three final starting Friday the 11th. march to the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
Fresh off of a two-game sweep over the Alberta Pandas to earn a spot at the U SPORTS National Championship for the first time since 2017, the T-Birds know they’re likely to face their toughest battle yet. this day for the Huskies who have finished back-to-back games upsets the sweeps, beating both the Manitoba Bisons and the first-place Mount Royal Cougars.
“They’ve knocked out great teams, they’re well trained, (head coach Steve Kook) has been here many times, he knows his group,” the UBC head coach said. Graham Thomas ahead of his fourth appearance in the conference finals. “They play fast and physically and obviously their goalkeeper is playing very well. It’s going to be a great weekend of hockey, two great teams playing at their peak. It will be a great game and a lot of fun for both teams.
This weekend marks the second straight season the T-Birds and Huskies have met in the playoffs, with UBC earning a two-game sweep in the 2020 Quarterfinals in Saskatoon. Despite several postseason encounters over the past decade, this is the first time the two conference rivals will meet in the Canada West final.
The series also marks the Huskies’ first visit to Vancouver since January 2020. UBC traveled to Saskatchewan last regular season in late November, splitting the series by two games.
While the Huskies entered the playoffs as the fifth seed, they dominated their first two series, allowing just three goals against in four games while Camryn Drever leads all playoff goaltenders with a 0.74 goals-against average and a 0.976 save percentage.
But UBC has its own strong goalie in Elise Hugens who picked up where she left off in the regular season, with a .949 save percentage with just two goals against in last weekend’s sweep against the Pandas.
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Offensively, the T-Birds received a big boost with the Game 2 return of the conference’s leading regular-season scorer, Chanreet Bassiwho put up a three-point effort in the series to pick up the win.
UBC also continued to get great production from the blue line, led by a pair of goals and an assist from Kennesha Miswaggon.
The ‘Birds’ semi-final victory led to an excited and confident group for the biggest three weeks the program has seen in several years.
“We’re really, really excited,” added Thomas. “For us (last weekend) was a monumental win for the majority of our squad and veteran players. They hadn’t won a semi-final in their time here, so those players had that hurdle to jump through. I think that win on Friday Night opened up another level of confidence for our whole group.”
The ‘Birds and Huskies are certainly on a roll as they enter the Canada West Final, while both also have their sights set on Charlottetown in two weeks as they will both represent the conference at the upcoming National Championship. U SPORTS. But there’s no doubt that both teams are also highly motivated to secure a conference banner.
The puck drop for Game 1 of the best-of-three final will take place at 7:00 p.m. PT at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Center. Game 2 is Saturday, also at 7:00 p.m., while Game 3, if needed, is scheduled for Sunday at 2:00 p.m. PT.
Tickets are available free of charge but must be reserved in advance. The series will also air live on Canada West TV.