In the inaugural ice hockey contest, one could be forgiven for expecting a tepid affair.
The two sides on display at Altrincham Ice Rink did not share the same deep-seated rivalry that is associated with the Rugby clubs of our two Universities. Indeed, both teams on the ice were made up of players from the same club, the Manchester Metros.
Former teammates, friends, allies; call them what you want, but this contest was no amiable affair by any stretch of the imagination. As the battle-scarred ice left at the end of the match would testify, ice-hockey is not a sport that does ‘tepid’ well. Instead, we were gifted with a fantastic and frenetic varsity contest that kept on giving and giving, before building to a thrilling, dramatic finale in the last third.
It was the University of Manchester who came out on top. They started in fantastic style, surging to a deserved 3-1 lead in the first third. Pugh scored twice for UoM and Oliver Bayne slotted home for MMU, but it was Ciaran Long who gave the third its champagne moment.
Capitalizing on a mistake from an MMU defender, he flew across the rink towards the MMU goaltender before dummying him brilliantly with an exceptional display of close control and slotting the puck into an empty net. UoM were dominant in the period, and well deserving of their lead.
The same pattern of play continued in the second third, with UoM dominating and MMU attempting to hit them on the counter attack.
Pugh started the third in the same form he displayed in the opening, scoring two goals in quick succession to make it 5-1. MMU pulled one back with Sean Day scoring, taking good advantage of a powerplay. The goal was all MMU had to celebrate from the third, though, with UoM rampant throughout; only a string of excellent saves from Tom McDonald in the MMU goal kept the score at 5-2. Pugh, Long and De’ath in particular were excellent for the boys in purple.
Fast-paced, action packed, dramatic; it was in the final third that the game really took off, displaying all the qualities that are associated with great sport.
MMU, refusing to accept defeat despite their three-goal deficit, came out for the final period of play looking like a different side.
Playing some fast and sharp hockey, they stormed through the UoM defence to score two goals quickly through Adrian Rajkumar and Sean Day. In a fierce and frenetic period of play, Pugh was sin binned for 2 minutes for slashing and Bayne, arguably MMU’s standout player, immediately took advantage by smashing in the equalizer for MMU. The game was well and truly on.
Completely against the run of play, UoM managed to regain the lead with a sharp counter-attack. By now, the game had an excellent pace to it; pulsating, vibrant and frantic, the match was showing off all the qualities of ice hockey to the spectators at Altrincham Ice Rink. Alongside the match itself, the atmosphere was building to a thrilling crescendo; every tackle or shot was accompanied with full-blooded cheers from the crowd, all of whom were fully engaged in the breathtaking spectacle unfolding before their eyes.
MMU rallied around the tremendous noise and managed to equalize quickly. What followed was a frantic period of hockey, with both sides exchaning blows in quick succession, eventually tieing the score at 7-7.
The outstanding Ciaran Long then came crashing in to score what would be the winner for UoM, following on from a sharp passage of play. The goal was enough and, helped by a string of fantastic saves from their goaltender at the death, UoM held out to win the game.
This was a truly fantastic tie between two evenly matched teams. UoM looked well in control in the opening two thirds of the match, but MMU responded brilliantly, taking the game to UoM with an astonishing fight back in the final third. UoM held out to win, but both teams should be credited for making this thrilling Varsity one to remember.
Trackback from your site.