Jeff Sargeant, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – It took until the final minute of double overtime but the UBC Thunderbirds men's hockey team (3-6-0) earned a 4-3 win over the visiting Lethbridge Pronghorns (2-3-2) Friday night in a thrilling weekend opener at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
With less than 60 seconds on the clock in 3-on-3 overtime, Austin Vetterl skated across the slot right through a Lethbridge defenceman then passed the puck back across to a waiting Luke Lockhart who finished with his third of the season. It's the second straight win for the Thunderbirds who are now tied with the Pronghorns for sixth in the Canada West.
"It was a great play by (Vetterl)," said Lockhart. "He beat his guy and got it over and all I had to do was put it into the empty net. It was a great win for the team."
Derek Dun was spectacular making 40 saves for his second straight win while earning the game's second star. The T-Birds finished 4-on-4 overtime on the penalty kill and Dun made several massive saves to keep UBC alive.
It was a back-and-forth affair all night as the Pronghorns responded after each UBC goal.
After putting up just 11 shots through the first two periods combined, the Thunderbirds went up 3-2 less than a minute into the third as Riley Guenther scored his first Canada West goal.
Once again, however, the Pronghorns refused to go away tying the game at three just past the halfway mark of the frame. Sam McKechnie pounced on a rebound for his second of the season from Bryson Gore and Tim Campbell, eventually forcing overtime.
With less than two minutes remaining in 4-on-4, the T-Birds were called for too many men giving the Pronghorns a 4-on-3 advantage. But a minute later Lethbridge took a penalty of their own as 3-on-3 started a bit early.
The Thunderbirds weren't able to capitalize on the ensuing shortened 4-on-3 power play despite some terrific chances. But UBC did generate some good momentum leading up to Lockhart's game winner.
"It wasn't pretty out there but we persevered," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "We kept staying positive, we've been pulling for each other and to come up with a win like that, it's really nice to see."
The T-Birds opened scoring just 26 seconds in as Anthony Bardaro kept his hot streak going with his fifth of the season picking up a rebound off a Vetterl shot. Bardaro has now scored in five straight with nine points in that span while Vetterl has eight points in the last five games.
After earning their second power play of the period, the Pronghorns tied it up with Justin Valentino converting on a quick shot in tight after a feed from Brandon Clowes at the 13:59 mark.
But it took UBC just over a minute to restore the lead as Joe Carvalho blasted the puck from high in the Pronghorns' zone for his first of the season.
With the Pronghorns on another power play late in the first, Valentino was sprung on a breakaway but Dun made one of his eight stops of the frame to keep UBC in the lead heading into the second.
Midway into the middle frame just after a UBC power play expired, Lethbridge's Maxwell brothers combined to even the game for the Pronghorns as Mitchell hit a streaking Russell on the left-wing side who buried his first of the season at 8:33 with the game staying tied at two until Guenther's early third period tally.
The T-Birds finished 0/6 on the power play while the Pronghorns went 1/6. Lethbridge outshot UBC 43-22.
"For the team these points really matter," said Lockhart. "We had a bit of a rough start there but we want to string some wins together and this one tonight was a big one."
The Thunderbirds have a chance to make it three straight wins with a rematch against the Pronghorns Saturday afternoon. Puck drop at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre is 4 p.m. (PT).