By Jeremy Laurie
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds (9-9-3) were shutout by the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies (18-3-0) in what was a fast-paced and physical Friday night Canada West men's hockey game at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
UBC certainly held their own against the first-place Huskies both physically and offensively. There was no shortage of scoring chances on either end, but solid goaltending from both UBC's Matt Hewitt and Saskatchewan's Jordon Cooke made goals difficult to come by.
Cooke, tied for third nationally with 16 wins, recorded a 25-save shutout, his second of the season, securing the Huskies' sixth straight W. Hewitt allowed two goals in the opening frame, he remained rock solid in the final-forty minutes with a 26-save performance.
Despite a chippy 60-minutes that resulted in 61 minutes of combined penalties, UBC were unable to find the back of the net on their five power play opportunities.
Despite dominating offensively in the opening minutes, a pair of early UBC penalties provided the Huskies with enough open ice to net the game's opening goal at 10:12 in the first. A sprawling save from Hewitt forced the rebound, which was located by Saskatchewan's Kohl Baumi. He fired the puck top shelf before Hewitt had time to recover from the initial stop.
A saucer pass from UBC's Manraj Hayer in the Saskatchewan zone found Austin Vetterl out front, but Saskatchewan goaltender Cooke tracked the play and made the stop. The pair set up a second play during the same shift with Hayer again feeding Vetteril, but his wrister was gobbled up by Cooke.
With 58 seconds remaining in the first, Cable, from the side of the net, shoveled the puck in past Hewitt, giving the Huskies a two-goal lead heading into the second.
A rowdy second period resulted in 33 minutes of penalties between the two teams. UBC was eventually awarded a brief 5-on-3 opportunity midway through the period. During the power play, a cross-ice feed from Josh Connolly found a wide open Kyle Becker, whose blast was swallowed by Cooke.
The Huskies found momentum following the penalty kill, but were unable to navigate their way around Hewitt. A drop pass from Saskatchewan's Josh Roach in the UBC zone was ripped by Bomi, but Hewitt's pad save prevented another late-period Huskies goal.
A slick, one-man effort from Joel Hamilton at 7:08 in the third, where he deked through two Huskies defenders and lobbed a backhand on net, was denied by Cooke.
Saskatchewan opted for a more defensive strategy late in the third and, with Hewitt pulled in the final two minutes, UBC were unable to generate any meaningful chances.
The 'Birds will face the Huskies once again on Saturday, January 23 at 7 p.m. (PT) at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.