UNBC squads hungry for wins

Jordan Hall is used to playing with pain.

That's a good thing for the UNBC Timberwolves.

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Sore wrist or not, the T-wolves rely on their fifth-year goalkeeper to block shots and so far this season Hall has been called upon frequently to bail out her teammates. Through six games, Hall ranks fifth in the CIS Canada West Conference with 24 saves

Head coach Alan Cameron knows he can count on the five-foot-eight Prince George native to keep the score close, like Hall did last weekend when the Trinity Western Spartans and Fraser Valley Cascades brought their shooting galleries to North Cariboo Field. She allowed two goals on nine shots last Friday against the Spartans and was replaced by rookie Lianna Toopitsin. Hall was in for the entire game against the Cascades.

"It's just a chronic wrist injury that she plays through," said UNBC head coach Andy Cameron.

"She hasn't been as busy this year as she has been in other years -- territorially the other teams have certainly had the play but we've been organized in front of her and we're looking to play in the other half of the field this weekend to give Jordan a break."

Tonight at 7, the T-wolves (0-5-1, eighth in the West) will try for their first win of the season when they take on the Lethbridge Pronghorns (2-2-2, fourth in the East). Cameron is counting on his team showing some improvement, having learned some valuable lessons on the field from their most recent opponents.

"Those teams finished second and third in the country last year so they're obviously good teams and there were positives to take out of it," said Cameron. "We got into the attacking halves of the field probably more than we've ever done in the past.

"We've got good numbers on the roster this year with 24 (players). The quality of training has been better than it's ever been. The first-year players have gotten in a lot more minutes this season compared to previous years and there's genuine competition for spots. It takes time, but it's a progressive step for the program and a couple of (winning) results this weekend would be nice."

T-wolves Jessica Erickson, a third-year wing, will see her first game action this season after knee surgery in mid-August to repair a meniscus tear.

Lethbridge doesn't score often, with just five goals in six games, and like the T-wolves they rely on solid goaltending. Micaela Stone is third in the Canada West with 48 saves and sports a 1.33 goals-against average. Pronghorns midfielder Nikki Furukawa has made the most of her scoring opportunities, with two goals on four shots. She also has an assist to lead Lethbridge in scoring.

"Lethbridge hasn't traditionally hasn't been a strong program in the conference but they've started out 2-2-2 and they seem to be more competitive this year," said Cameron. "We saw them in the winter in Edmonton at an 11-a-side tournament and we tied them and beat them and we expect to be competitive with them."

Sunday at noon, the T-wolves tackle the Calgary Dinos (5-1-0, first in the East). Calgary forwards Mollee Ramsay (5g, 1a) and Maddison Fritze (3g) are dangerous in the offensive end and Jordan Smith, with 21 shots in six games, could also pose problems for UNBC defenders.

The UNBC men face the ever-tough UBC Thunderbirds (4-0-1) in a two-game set Saturday and Sunday (both 2:15 p.m. starts). UNBC (1-5-0) is coming off a pair of losses last weekend at home to Fraser Valley Cascades).

T-wolves interim head coach Steve Simonson thought his team performed better in the second game (3-0 loss), than the first game of the weekend (a 1-0 defeat), continuing a trend he's noticed since the season began. In the second game of the set against Victoria, Sept. 12, UNBC led 3-1 but gave up three goals in 14 minutes and lost 5-3.

"In lots of moments of lots of games we're really close to where we need to be but consistently we're not, and that's why the results haven't come the way we want them to come," said Simonson. "There are lots of positive signs. We're trying to possess the ball in ways that will create chances and we were good for two-thirds of the field on Sunday but the final third was not at the level required to get enough successful chances. The onus on us to find ways into that final area of attack."

Simonson took over as T-wolves head coach in August, when Alan Alderson resigned. Through six games, UNBC has been outscored 20-2. Their only point came in a 1-1 tie with UBC-Okanagan Sept. 19 in Kelowna.

"I think our team in general is a team in transition," said Simonson. "Al did a great job last year bringing in a bunch of new players and it was their first year in the league and now, with this season, they've had the transition of dealing with a new coach right before the preseason and, quite frankly, they've done a good job of that.

UNBC defender Dan Goodey won't play Saturday as a result of being handed two yellow card in Sunday's game against Fraser Valley.

UBC has one of the top goalies in Canada in Chad Bush. He's played ever minute of the T-birds' five games and sports a 0.80 goals-against average, tops in the league, while his .789 save percentage ranks second in Canada West. For scoring, UBC leans on forward Gagan Dosanjh (3g, 1a) and centreback Sean Einarsson (2g, 1a).

The T-birds are coming off a two-game sweep at home against UBC-Okanagan and have won their last five games, after starting the season with a 1-1 tie in Victoria. They trail UVic by one point for first in the West but have two games in hand over the Vikes.

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