It’s a special start to the men’s hockey season for the UBC Thunderbirds with the University of Wisconsin Badgers visiting David Bauer Arena for a two-game exhibition series, starting on Friday.
Wisconsin’s roster features a remarkable 12 NHL drafted players, including 2019 first round selections Alex Turcotte (LA Kings – 5th overall) and Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens – 15th overall). They are joined by K’Andre Miller who was taken by the New York Rangers in the first round in 2018.
The UBC roster includes three Richmond standouts – forwards Tyler Sandhu, Carter Popoff and defenceman Shaun Dosanjh. All three took their careers to the Point Grey campus after playing in the Western Hockey League.
“We’re excited. Just talking to everyone in the room and just towards the summer when we found out we were playing against them. Everybody is getting excited and everybody is getting ready to go,” said Sandhu, entering his third season with the Thunderbirds. “It’s a big test for us. Our first practice yesterday was a high tempo practice and we’re hoping to get another four days of that this week and get ready to go for the weekend.”
Plenty of scouts are expected to be in attendance in large part to see projected 2020 first round pick Dylan Holloway. The Calgary, Alberta native was named 2019’s Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year having scored 41 goals with 88 assists in just 53 game for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. Holloway has been ranked within the top ten projected skaters for what is expected to be a very deep 2020 draft class.
“What a great test to start your season,” said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon who enters his fourth season at the head of the program. “Friday night it’s going to be electric. They’re an extremely talented group, they’re going to be able to skate, their skill level is off the charts. They have some potential NHL superstars so it’s going to be really cool to see them at this part of their career.”
Coached by former NHL player and head coach Tony Granato, now in his fourth season, Wisconsin is one of the most storied division I hockey programs with six NCAA championship titles and 12 frozen four appearances.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. with admission by donation. The second half of the exhibition double header will begin Sunday at 3 p.m.