UBC Thunderbirds hockey men trying to get back on track

 

 
 
 
 

VANCOUVER — After a once promising start and a national top-10 ranking, the UBC Thunderbirds are in a 1-4-1 swoon that has seen them tumble down the Canada West men’s hockey standings.

The T-Birds have stopped scoring and stopped winning but there is some good news: their next opponent is the last-place Lethbridge Pronghorns who have won just once this season (1-15-2) and are on a seven-game losing streak T-Birds coach Milan Dragicevic insisted his skaters won’t take the Pronghorns lightly, especially because the games Friday and Saturday are in Lethbridge. UBC is 9-7-2 and tied for fifth in Canada West with the Regina Cougars.

“Lethbridge is really good at home and they have been for years,” Dragicevic noted. “It’s not going to be an easy weekend by any means. But it doesn’t matter who we play, we have to worry about ourselves.”

The T-Birds have 10 games remaining in their regular season and their goal is to climb back into the top four. That would guarantee them home ice for the first round of the playoffs, a best-of-three series with all games in one barn. There is no travel involved once the series starts. UBC is two points behind fourth-place Calgary and three behind third-place Manitoba.

“This is a big stretch for us,” said Dragicevic. “Our goal hasn’t changed. We want to host a playoff game.”

UBC’s recent slump is mainly due to a lack offence. The T-Birds have been outscored 21-8 in their last six games and been shutout twice. The power play is 3-for-26. That won’t get it done.

“Our power play has run dry and that’s pretty evident by our goals for,” Dragicevic explained. “We stopped putting pucks to the net and we stopped being hungry in front of the net. This week in practice we’ve been trying to put more pucks on the net and create offensive opportunities. We have to be a lot more gritty than we’ve been.

“We have to get back to our team identity, which is hard work, grit and forechecking. When we do that, we’re successful.”

Max Grassi leads the T-Bird offence with 16 points, followed by Brad Hoban and Neil Manning with 14 apiece. Cole Wilson and Scott Wasden are the top goals scorers, each with eight.

epap@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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