VANCOUVER – The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men’s hockey team nearly came away with both games against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds but based on the way the first half of the Canada West season has gone getting three out of four points heading into the semester break isn’t so bad.
Backstopped by a solid goaltender performance, the Pronghorns put an end to a four-game losing streak with a 3-0 win over the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver on Friday, Nov. 30.
The Pronghorns played simple and smart while clogging up their own zone and shutting down UBC's offence and goaltender Garret Hughson made 30 saves for his first Canada West shutout.
"We know how valuable he is, this is his third year and to finally have (a shutout) is nice for him, it was a good win for him," Head Coach Murray Nystrom said.
It took 37 minutes into the game for Lethbridge to finally open the scoring, after UBC won a draw and the puck bounced off a leg, it was picked up by Justin Valentino who quickly centred to Ryan Chynoweth who slipped it past Rylan Toth for his fourth of the season.
The game remained a one-goal affair until the 13:44 mark of the third when the Pronghorns doubled their lead off a T-Bird turnover.
Connor Sanvido grabbed the puck right at the side of the crease and tucked it into the open cage.
UBC pulled Toth for the extra attacker with three minutes remaining, but it didn't take long for the visitors to hit the empty net, as Valentino launched the puck from his own end and hit the open cage for his third of the season.
"We've been playing pretty well of late, maybe not getting the results we wanted but I thought tonight we really limited their opportunities," Nystrom added. "We want to make plays but sometimes the right play is just getting the puck out of the zone and I thought at the right times we were making those decisions."
On Saturday, Dec. 1, looking to enter the semester break with a weekend sweep, the Pronghorns were in perfect position through 40 minutes but squandered a third-period three-goal lead and ultimately dropped a 4-3 decision in overtime to the Thunderbirds.
Much like the night before, the Pronghorns were able to completely shut down UBC's offence while goaltender Garret Hughson was unbeatable.
Lethbridge scored three times within a seven-minute span in the second period to open up a 3-0 lead on a frustrated UBC team.
Spenser Jensen rifled the puck from the blue line past a screened Toth three minutes into the frame for his first of the season.
The Pronghorns then made it a three-goal lead when Justin Valentino and Brooks Maxwell scored 1:13 apart to take command of the game by the 9:46 mark.
But then Jerret Smith took over.
He blasted a one-timer past Hughson to finally get on the board on the power play, and a little later while still down by two with three minutes to go, Toth headed to the bench for the extra attacker.
The early move paid off as Smith ripped home his second of the game and fourth of the season to get UBC within one, and moments later with Toth still on the bench, Smith put a wrist shot into the back of the net off a faceoff win by UBC to complete the natural hat trick and the comeback.
Then in overtime, Smith finished the game after burying a give and go from Austin Vetterl.
Hughson stopped 27 pucks in the loss.
The Pronghorns finish the weekend with three out of a possible four points and a five-point cushion over both Manitoba and Regina for sixth place in the Canada West conference, and Lethbridge is just six points back of Mount Royal for fifth place.
Now on semester break, the Pronghorns will return to action prior to the new year, travelling to Atlantic Canada to take on UNB and Moncton in non-conference action.
Lethbridge will open the second semester of Canada West action the first weekend of January, hosting the Regina Cougars.
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