Cambridge swept to an 8-2 victory over Oxford at the 93rd Varsity match on Saturday night, as they continued the Light-Blue sporting dominance on show throughout Lent term.
The storied tradition of Cambridge and Oxford facing off dates back to 1885 and is the oldest ongoing rivalry in ice hockey history, as verified in the sport’s Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada, and that explains why Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop in Peterborough.
Cambridge were eager to continue their recent success, having won three of their last four matches, and to avenge last year’s bitter Varsity defeat. What is more, for the captains and the majority of players on both teams, this was not only their last Varsity match, but likely the final competition of their careers on this scale. Cambridge captain Thor Richardson said in the dressing room before stepping on the ice, “Think back to October when it all began. Everything since then – all the hard work and the sacrifice – comes down to tonight. We’ve got a chance to be Varsity Champions, and if we play like we know we can, we will win this game. That cup is ours to take.”
With that, as more than 500 fans looked on, the final battle commenced. As expected, the intensity and ferocity was tremendous from the outset with crushing hits being delivered and bodies flying on both sides. After almost eight minutes of even play, Oxford’s main sniper snuck behind the defence and scored on a breakaway. Two and a half minutes later, Cambridge leading goal getter Kyle Maggard sent a booming slapshot from the top of the circle past the Oxford netminder to even the tally. The contest remained deadlocked for only a minute until captain Thor Richardson put the Light Blues ahead with just four minutes to go in the first period.
Cambridge were all too aware of how strongly Oxford would come out for the start of the second period, determined to usurp control of the match, but it was not to be. The Light Blues’ defence, led by Player of the Match Bryan Thirsk, shut down the Oxford offence and kept most attacks to the perimeter, which star goaltender Carl Mazurek handled with ease. At the other end of the ice, Oxford was simply unable to provide an answer for the speed and force of Cambridge’s fire power. After driving around, past, and through Oxford defensemen for the entire period, Maggard and the other Cambridge forwards left the Dark Blues in disarray, scoring five unanswered goals, including one while shorthanded. When the curtain closed on period two, Cambridge were leading decisively 7 – 2.
A year’s worth of training, disciplined play, and strong leadership from captains and coaches Taylor Burns, Luc St. Pierre, and Professor Bill Harris allowed Cambridge to prevent an exhausted and battered Oxford club from rallying any sort of comeback. The Dark Blues were limited to just six shots on net in the third period and no goals, while Oscar Wilsby sealed the game’s fate with one final tally in the last minute of the game.
Good performances were had by Overall Player of the Game Kyle Maggard with five goals and an assist, Player of the Game for Cambridge Bryan Thirsk, goaltender Carl Mazurek who stopped 24 of 26 shots, captain Thor Richardson with a goal and two assists, and assistant captain Jaason Geerts with four assists.
Varsity victories do not come without personal sacrifice. Defenseman Matt Harris played with a broken rib after being hit by a car two days before the match and captain Thor Richardson played the second half of the game with a broken wrist following a hard collision. These and other cuts and bruises are the medals of champions!
Speaking afterwards Cambridge captain Thor Richardson said, “This was undoubtedly our best game of our season. We had a job to do and we went out there and did it. Every guy rose to the challenge and gave it his all. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys right now.”
Perhaps the pinnacle moment of the event was when, cup in hand, Richardson and the rest of the men in Light Blue skated towards the more 500 vocal and loyal Cambridge supporters. The deafening cheer of victory and elation that followed reverberated through the arena and will not soon be forgotten by players and fans alike. The Light Blues would like to thank all those who cheered them to victory on Saturday and throughout the season.
The Men started an amazingly victorious Varsity week-end for Cambridge, with the Women’s Blues and Eskimos also winning, which is the first time in the history of Cambridge ice hockey that they have captured all three titles.