UBC Thunderbirds defend Canada West banner with win over MRU Cougars

VANCOUVER, BC – It didn’t always look like a sure thing, but the UBC Thunderbirds climbed the summit.

The UBC Thunderbirds eked out a 1-0 win against the MRU Cougars on Sunday to take home back-to-back Canada West banners. It’s the 5th in program history, in what’s looking to be a golden generation for the women in blue and gold.

Off the backs of a 5-1 result, the Thunderbirds were met with fierce resistance from a Cougars team that knew they had a championship to play for. The first period saw the flow go back and forth, with both teams trying to gain the upper hand. But, MRU’s Kaitlyn Ross and UBC’s Elise Hugens proved hard to solve once again.

With the first period ending scoreless, it was the hosts that made a push in the latter stages of the second. UBC went to work in the offensive zone, buoyed by zone time and pressure. The Cougars would bend, but wouldn’t break, fighting for every single loose puck and denying the Thunderbirds at every turn.

However, UBC’s persistence would pay off in the third. On the powerplay, Chanreet Bassi walked downhill and dished the puck to Cassidy Rhodes in the high slot. The first-year forward roofed it past Ross, putting the T-Birds up 1-0 after a long stretch of dominant play.

MRU wouldn’t go away quietly. They fought and clawed their way back into the flow of the game. The Cougars had a powerplay of their own with 9 minutes left in the third, but were unable to capitalize. Emma Bergesen came agonizingly close to knotting the game up, but her shot rang off of the post. Mount Royal pulled Ross for the extra attacker at the two minute mark, but the final buzzer went without a Cougar goal.

It’s still a remarkable result for this MRU squad, a silver medal earned after a disappointing 2021-22 season that saw them bowing out in the semifinals. The Cougars have much to be proud of and added motivation heading into the U SPORTS championships.

“Obviously we’re disappointed with the end result this weekend but we’ll try to use it as fuel as we move forward in the next couple weeks here and try to get rested up and ready to go,” Mount Royal’s head coach Scott Rivett said.

As for UBC, another banner title seems appropriate for a squad that took the ball and ran right from the get-go. There wasn’t a moment where this team seemed to slip up, finding a way to win even with their backs against the wall. A second successive CanWest title seems to bode well for establishing a winning culture out in Point Grey.

“This group’s been hungry right from the beginning, right from the offseason last year with what happened with us at nationals,” UBC’s head coach Graham Thomas said after the game. “Mount Royal, give full credit to them, they’re a fantastic team. They battled us really hard and it was a great series. Just really, really proud of the group.”

With the championship series now over, both teams have some downtime to rest, recover and prepare for nationals. The U SPORTS Women’s Hockey championship gets underway in Montreal on March 16th.

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