A bumper crowd gathered at the Motorpoint Arena on Friday evening to witness a momentous edition of Nottingham Varsity Ice Hockey for the University of Nottingham. The Green and Gold were looking to earn further bragging rights in the series by avenging last year’s defeat to Nottingham Trent. The Green and Gold have dominated across most Varsity events in recent years, but the most prized jewel to play for had still been noticeably absent from their Varsity crown.
UoN started the brighter with the Green and Gold striking the post early on and the Trent keeper managing to thwart an early effort from UoN’s Watson. As you would expect from a Varsity fixture, the game started at a fearsome pace with plenty of intent being shown from both sides. UoN continued their bright start with a strong effort from Spencer – saved once again by Matty Hodgkins.
UoN finally managed to get the break-through their early dominance merited in the 5th minute with a smart finish from Ruskin Springer Hughes after a slick move from the Green and Gold. Springer Hughes continued his fine start to proceedings with a brilliant counter-attack which finished with a shot edged just wide of the goal. UoN continued their dominance with Johnson-Brown also denied by a smart stop.
What a start!! At the end of the first period UoN lead 1-0.
— UoN Students' Union (@UoNSU) April 27, 2018
UoN’s keeper Mark Lovett had little to do until the 8th minute when he got down smartly to deny a Trent shot from distance. UoN would have felt their early play merited more than just the single goal with Trent struggling to get a foothold in the game. Yet another UoN chance came and went after Watson’s well-struck shot was once again denied by the impressive Hodgkins. Trent’s first period ended with a number of speculative shots across goal which were comfortably dealt with by UoN’s Lovett. The Green and Gold were still squandering golden opportunities as the first period drew to a close with a one on one chance missed as the puck flew well over the bar. A stunning first period from Trent keeper Matty Hodgkins ended with two more brilliant saves.
“The Green and Gold were oozing confidence now, leading 3-0 with some slick passing.”
After an under par first period, Trent were looking to wrestle the initiative away from UoN. A deflected shot flew just past Mark Lovett’s post. After a mini Trent fightback at the outset of the period, UoN reasserted their dominance with the second goal of the evening from number 3 Ruskin Springer Hughes. A fantastic goal from UoN Captain Gordon then followed straight away after a clever pass from Alex Karaluks put UoN firmly in control of the Varsity contest.
The Green and Gold were oozing confidence now, leading 3-0 with some slick passing and interchanging of positions. Trent then managed to find their way back into the contest midway through the second period with a goal from Cameron McCall after an unfortunate error at the back from UoN. McCall continued his fine second period with a shot from distance which was driven just wide of UoN’s goal.
The frenetic nature of the game showed no signs of letting up as both sides traded opportunities to score during a tight period of the match. Truels Lone then made it 3-2 after a clinical counter-attack from Trent. Matty Hodgkin’s once again produced some heroics in the Trent goal at the end of the second period in order to prevent UoN from extending their lead. Clare Jones did well to set up a late Trent chance in the dying embers of the second period, but UoN cleared well and went in at the break leading 3-2 after a fantastic period of play.
— Impact Sport (@ImpactSport) April 27, 2018
The third and final period of the match began in end-to-end fashion with UoN looking to increase their advantage and Trent looking to bring the match level. Eddie Fothergill of Trent came up with the only meaningful shot of the first 10 minutes of the final period which was saved comfortably by the UoN keeper. Video review would have been helpful as a Trent shot thudded off the bar, but the referee concluded the puck did not cross the line. UoN looked to capitalise on this let off through Ruskin Springer Hughes but in the course of the attack, the UoN player somehow managed to snap his stick in half!
UoN may have rued a missed chance through George Spencer as an onslaught on the Trent goal didn’t result in the goal the Green and Gold deserved. However, in the dying minutes, Trent threw the kitchen sink at UoN. Sending the keeper into attack proved conclusive, as Ruskin Springer Hughes broke clear for UoN and stroked the ball into an empty net to secure his hat-trick and take the match 4-2 for Uni of in a contest that will live long in the memory.
Images courtesy of Caitlin McIlwraith.