Three debuts, two points to be taken and one big opportunity for the UBC Thunderbirds to kickstart the second half of their season.
As is the case at the start of each semester, new players are welcomed into the team and it was no different this time around as the Thunderbirds brought in two defensman to improve on their second-worst first-half finish. The defensemen, Jared Tyszka and Anthony Bishop are both products of the WHL come from the US Division and spent their first semester with Seattle and Tri-Cities respectively.
While the two had no names on the back of their jerseys, they stepped onto Canada West ice for the first time and did not look out of place. Tyszka started the game on the blueline for the Thunderbirds and showcased some of the skill sets he was expected to bring to the team. He skated well and had a pair of zone entries in the opening frame. His physicality was also noticed, as he was able to clear many Calgary attackers away from the UBC netminder. Anthony Bishop’s presence was less felt, part due to the fact that he had less ice time than his debut counterpart.
For Calgary, the debut spotlight was on Brendan De Jong, who joined the Dinos from the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL. As has been talked on the site before, U Sports and the ECHL share a special connection, but most of the time its players going to opposite way, from university to the proffesional ranks. Although that’s often the case, De Jong bucked the trend, joining the oft high-flying Dinos for the second semester. With his addition, the Dinos now have two players who played professionally on their roster. They are just added to a long list of ex-pros to pull on the Dinos jersey, a group that includes women’s hockey legend, Hayley Wickenheiser, albeit in the women’s program.
De Jong’s performance in his debut was highlighted by his old fashioned defensive game. There were big hits, blocked shots and penalties, everything one could imagine from a rough and tumble old-time defenseman. He was up against a fairly stagnant Thunderbirds forward group, but he still showed well for a debut game.
A funny thing about the debut players? They all got penalties at some point throughout the night
Debuts were not the only focus of the Friday night affair, there were also some very important points up for grabs for both teams. The other game on the scoreboard to watch was the clash between the Lethbridge Pronghorns and Regina Cougars. Coming into the weekend both Lethbridge and UBC were tied at 11 points, so a win for one and a loss for the other would begin to make some strides towards the playoffs.
Well, so much for that chance as the Pronghorns fell flat against a lowly Regina side, and the T-Birds were unable to find a win on home ice, leaving both teams at 11 points. Combine that with a win from Manitoba, and you find two schools that are destined to be battling it out for the final playoff spot. Both teams will have another opportunity against the same opponents on Saturday, as they try yet again to get an upper hand on each other. The second games of the weekend will also allow another glimpse at the newcomers and provide coaches with examples of where the new faces can fit into their squad to find the greatest success.