Kelowna Rockets

Six Former Rockets Capture Canada West Title with UBC

March 4, 2024 - Western Hockey League (WHL)
Kelowna Rockets News Release

UBC Thunderbirds goaltender Cole Schwebius
UBC Thunderbirds goaltender Cole Schwebius
(Kelowna Rockets, Credit: University of British Columbia)

For the first time since 1971, the UBC Thunderbirds are Canada West champions, including former Rockets Liam Kindree, Jake Kryski, Jake Lee, Conner McDonald, Jonathan Smart and Cole Schwebius.

After falling behind 1-0 early, the Thunderbirds surged for four straight goals en route to a 5-3 win over the University of Calgary Dinos in Game 3 of the conference championship.

"You dream of moments like this as a kid," UBC Captain and former Red Deer Rebels alternate captain Chris Douglas told UBC Communications. "You want to play for a championship and I haven't been able to play for a championship in seven or eight years since I was in my teenage years. I'm just so proud of every single guy. I hope guys can look back and be like 'I was a part of this', the guys that aren't here right now, that are alumni. I'm so happy right now, it's unexplainable what I'm feeling right now."

Douglas, who scored twice in the win, is one of 22 UBC skaters who came up through the WHL.

Ryan Pouliot (Red Deer Rebels, Kootenay Ice, Swift Current Broncos) and Jake Kryski (Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Calgary Hitmen) also found the back of the net for the Thunderbirds, while former Edmonton Oil Kings Captin Scott Atkinson added two helpers.

This marks the third championship in the history of UBC's men's program, after winning the conference in 1971 and 1963.

It's the first time they've won on home ice.

"It's pretty surreal right now," UBC Head Coach Sven Butenschon said. "It's relief. When you're the top seed and you're kind of expected to win and you're supposed to win, that's a lot of pressure and the group seemed to really thrive under pressure. I'm so proud of them, just so proud of the guys."

Butenschon, who won the 1996 WHL Championship with Brandon, was also named Canada West Coach of the Year for a second time.

Riley Stotts (Swift Current Broncos, Calgary Hitmen), Jadon Joseph (Lethbridge Hurricanes, Regina Pats, Vancouver Giants, Moose Jaw Warriors, Kelowna Rockets, Tri-City Americans) and Arjun Atwal (Saskatoon Blades) scored for Calgary in the loss.

The Dinos were looking to win back-to-back Canada West championships for the first time since 1995-1996.

UBC and Calgary's road doesn't end here, though.

Both teams will travel to Toronto to compete in the U SPORTS University Cup from March 14-17 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens).

A Canada West team has not won the national title since the University of Alberta Golden Bears won it all in 2018.

Images from this story

UBC Thunderbirds goaltender Cole Schwebius
UBC Thunderbirds goaltender Cole Schwebius

(University of British Columbia)

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