UBC Thunderbirds Continue Magical Run and Claim Canada West Playoff Title

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IIMarch 4, 2013

Photo by David Moll, obtained from: http://ubyssey.ca/sports/ubc-womens-hockey-canada-west-champs291/
Photo by David Moll, obtained from: http://ubyssey.ca/sports/ubc-womens-hockey-canada-west-champs291/

The greatest turnaround in CIS history continues for the UBC Thunderbirds women’s hockey team. An upset of the nationally ranked No. 2 Calgary Dinos at the Canada West postseason tournament brings them their first ever conference title.

After losing the opening game by a 4-1 tally on March 1, the Thunderbirds forced a third and deciding game. A March 2 win found Nicole Saxvik and Cailey Hay score goals six seconds apart in the first period. Despite a 3-1 lead, Calgary showed why they were the second-ranked team in the nation.

With 15:10 remaining in the final frame, Calgary tied the score at three apiece. UBC’s Kaylee Chanakos scored the first goal of her playoff career to restore the lead, but Calgary tied the game in the dying seconds to force overtime.

Rookie Stephanie Schaupmeyer would prove to be the hero as the Thunderbirds fought off elimination. She would log the goal just 19 seconds into the second overtime frame as Danielle Dube’s 35 saves helped the Thunderbirds prevail.

The third and deciding game on March 3 resulted in Thunderbirds co-captain Kaitlin Imai tipping a shot past Calgary backstop Amanda Tapp for the 1-0 lead. While Elena Lovell of Calgary tied the score, Tatiana Rafter restored the lead for UBC with her sixth goal during the Thunderbirds' magical postseason.

With 6:45 left in the second period, Nikola Brown-John buried the puck past Tapp as the squad enjoyed a 3-1 lead. Before the period would end, Rebecca Unrau scored at 3:06 and extended UBC’s lead to a 4-1 mark as the Dinos pulled Tapp.

Although Erica Mitschke of the Dinos scored as the Thunderbirds lead was reduced to two goals, they could not build on the momentum. Once again, Danielle Dube was the difference as she remained solid between the pipes. Despite being peppered with shots, she maintained her composure as the Dinos were unable to chip away at the Thunderbirds lead.

An empty-net goal by Kaitlin Imai put the game out of reach as the Thunderbirds cruised to a 5-2 win. For the second consecutive game, Dube was named the First Star of the Game as she made 29 stops. The Thunderbirds continue their Cinderella run at the CIS Nationals in Toronto.