After a disappointing start to the Varsity series 2011, the Nottingham University ice hockey team were looking to repeat last year’s breathtaking victory and even out the score at the most eagerly anticipated event of the series. With another sell-out crowd and some incredibly entertaining performances from Dave Richardson and the Tracy Quaife dancers, the atmosphere in the Capital FM arena was electric. The fans were certainly ready for a thriller and as the players came onto the ice, it was equally obvious that they were geared up for the most important match of the season.
The first period began rather passively, with both teams testing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But, with two sets of Mavericks teammates who already know each other so well, it didn’t take long for the players to start exploiting each other’s weaknesses and capitalising on their chances. Trent were by far the best team in the first period and their #14, James Wood, earned the first goal of the night. Once they broke the deadlock, the goals just kept on coming with a breakaway goal from #12, Dan Taylor, followed by another goal just a minute later from #56, James Hovell.
With both teams managing five shots each on target, the obvious difference was that Trent were grasping every opportunity. At this early point in the match, Uni already seemed to have reached the point of no return as they trailed 3-0. But, after a rather hesitant start, the Uni side started to show some flair with a bombardment of shots forcing some quality saves from Trent’s net minder, Hrdlicka. Their hard work finally paid off with a goal from no.18, Roland Soltys to end the first period with Trent leading 3-1.
After a display of young talent from the Nottingham under 10s, the Pumas, the teams were back onto the ice with Trent looking to continue with their form and Uni looking to build on the momentum of their goal. Despite a flurry of chances form both sides, the score remained deadlocked for much of the second period. Uni attempted to take the initiative, firing at the goal whenever they got within range. Hrdlicka again coped well with the pressure and made some fantastic saves. However, Uni’s determination finally paid off with a goal from their captain, Tom Griffiths, bringing them within only one goal at the end of the second period.
Although the players had left the ice for their final team talks of the match, the rivalry and fierce competition didn’t end there as the Trent and Uni AU officers took to the ice for a shoot-out of their own! Dave Heads was up first and managed a respectable two goals out of a possible five. This proved to be enough to beat his Trent counterpart, who only managed to score one.
With a small victory for Uni already in the bag, would our team be able to emanate that success and defend their title? Not if Trent had anything to say about it! They came out blazing, eager to take revenge for the goals scored by Uni in the last two periods. This time, it was the turn of Uni’s net minder, John Silvester, to come under relentless fire as the Trent players piled on the pressure. Despite all his efforts, the Uni players failed to clear their line and Trent’s captain led by example, extending their lead to two with just under a quarter of an hour to go. Uni escaped lightly and breathed a collective sigh of relief after some missed opportunities by Trent to extend their lead further, with a couple of one-on-ones with the net-minder and some breakaway chances. With only two minutes to go, Uni became desperate and pulled their net-minder to gain an extra player.
But despite all their efforts, the Trent Army cheered their team to victory as they took the match with a convincing 4-2 victory. Both net-minders earned well-deserved man of the match awards and the Trent team celebrated in style with a pile-on at centre ice. After two matches and two losses in the Varsity series 2011, Uni are going to have to make sure that they win the next few fixtures to be in with a chance claiming back the Varsity title.