With a 9-6 win in front of a pumped up crowd at the Motorpoint Arena, the Green and Gold moved into a 5-3 lead in the Varsity series overall. In what is one of the biggest events on the Varsity calendar, UoN put on a real show. Domenico Gullo weaved some magic to net five goals and last year’s hat-trick hero Ruskin Springer-Hughes netting a quick fire double himself to get the crowd fired up.
The Green and Gold got off to a shaky start, with Josh Gordon and Steven Lancashire taking a pair of early penalties, leaving Trent with a 5 on 3 spell against the inexperienced Luke Thornton. With a helping hand from a goal line stop from Gullo, UoN weathered this early spell to kill the penalties and get things back on track.
“The pressure was piled on…”
After a solid shot from Springer-Hughes was saved, the Green and Gold opened the scoring from Jacob Spurge, assisted by James Laming. From here they settled in to controlling the ice, with Trent only able to get anything going on the counter. Gullo started his work at the other end by jamming home one off a scramble in front, with the assist going to Gordon. The pressure was piled on with this lead, but UoN weren’t able to make it count on the scoreboard in the same way. Spurge and Gullo continued to threaten, the latter really making good use of his stickhandling to get to more dangerous areas than Trent.
Not managing to put the hammer down came back to bite the Green and Gold late as Trent managed to find the net. A foolish icing gave them a faceoff in the zone to be able to set up instead of countering. The puck went straight to Cameron McCall, who made no mistake to keep NTU in the game. UoN headed into the second with a man advantage though, after Astill was sent to the box, with Gordon and Stick also being sent in for the scuffle that ensued.
“The Green and Gold back him up, netting the puck twice in only 24 seconds”
A big error from Thornton, not managing to freeze the puck after a save, meant that once things got back to even strength, Trent were able to level it up. Truels Lone had stayed up ice, so was able to take the clearing pass, put a decent shot on and bury the follow up. After reassuring the man in net, however, the Green and Gold backed him up, netting the puck twice in only 24 seconds, Luke Watson assisted by Gullo and Lancashire off the faceoff from the NTU goal, and then Gullo netting his second to push it back to another 2 goal lead.
This period of ascendency was interrupted when Alex Waller took a penalty for holding, with not too long later a Trent player taking his own for a spell of four on four. Just before this ended, UoN had a goal chalked off as it was kicked in illegally. The emotions started to heighten with both goalies taking hits and both sides beginning to get more physical on the ice. The Green and Gold again were able to settle in to having more possession in the offensive zone, Gullo earning a penalty shot that he couldn’t convert. This failure didn’t matter, as he managed to score his hat-trick by burying a feed at the backdoor, proceeding to skate to centre ice, bow to the Trent fans and then go to the UoN fans to hype them up.
“He celebrated in front of the Trent support, and just as the period was ending, buried a shot from the middle of the zone”
NTU again managed to profit off a braindead icing from the Green and Gold by scoring immediately off the faceoff with 3:37 remaining. Despite this, UoN managed to wrestle back immediate control, with Ruskin Springer-Hughes snapping a shot clear past the hampered Holly Steeples, assisted by Spurge and Laming. He celebrated in front of the Trent support, and just as the period was ending, buried a shot from the middle of the zone with Spurge getting another assist. This left things at 7-4 to the Green and Gold heading into the final third.
“Trent were finally able to convert, Thornton spilling again with Juran putting it in”
NTU were able to start the better in the make or break period, getting some solid zone time and having a couple of decent shots. They weren’t able to take advantage of a power play earned by Gordon heading to the box again for charging, with Steeples also seriously hurt at this point between the pipes. Neither side was really able to connect on those key final pieces of play, unable to find the goal threat in front or icing the puck due to miscommunication. This came to an end when Gordon took another penalty for slashing and Trent were finally able to convert, Thornton spilling again with Juran putting it in after a couple of stabs at it.
The Green and Gold nearly got the instant response on the scoreboard again with a scramble in front, and NTU nearly managed to make it a one goal contest as UoN’s skaters thought the puck had been stopped. Only an amazing piece of defensive work from Waller preserved the two goal margin.
“After UoN’s timeout, it all nearly went horrifically wrong”
Gullo tallied his fourth midway through the period, a smooth pass over from Aleks Karaluks setting up the shot from distance for a clear 8-5 lead. A couple of near misses in putting the game away later and Hopkins from NTU earned a trip to the penalty box for charging at exactly the wrong time. After UoN’s timeout, it all nearly went horrifically wrong. Thornton had to pull off a pair of thieving glove saves to maintain the gap. The game continued to get more ill-tempered, with a goal being wiped off for Watson to kill the game off following another little scuffle with Springer-Hughes.
“UoN were the bigger threat”
Thornton had some more incredible work to deny Trent, stopping the puck at the back post and managing to keep it covered. Despite the scoreboard pressure, UoN were the bigger threat, with Springer-Hughes looking for the hat-trick for a second consecutive year and Robin Mullen going close again. Skinner took the initiative for Trent, breaking away from the Green and Gold to put the wrist shot past Thornton to make it 8-6 with only a minute left to go.
Trent then took their timeout to setup and pull their goaltender, which simply made it all the easier for Gullo to cap off a 6 point night with the empty net goal. This made the contest the highest scoring Ice Hockey in Varsity Series history. Trent nearly got a consolation late on, but the puck was frozen before they knocked it in.
#NottsVarsity | UoN take the win in the highest scoring ice hockey varsity fixture in history??
— University of Nottingham Sport (@UoNSport) April 2, 2019
After the final buzzer sounded, the Green and Gold mobbed Thornton in the net. The man who could have broken under the pressure of a couple of mistakes and near misses in the cauldron of the packed out Motorpoint instead took control of the net and the game late. UoN managed to tire out their opposition over the course of the game, through the skilled play of Karaluks, the scoring of Springer-Hughes and Gullo and Spurge chipped in to fill the gaps.
Consistent pressure and possession in the attacking zone was the order of the day and it made all the difference in the end for the Green and Gold. Trent were only able to connect on isolated chances whilst UoN were able to fire over 50 shots on Holly Steeples’ net.
Featured image courtesy of @UoNSport via Twitter.