• Manchester University triumph in first-ever Varsity ice hockey game

    Posted on Tue 30th October, 2012

    The University of Manchester (UoM) defeated Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in a highly entertaining goal-fest to win the inaugural Varsity ice hockey game at Altrincham Ice Dome last night.

    The two rosters featured players from the Manchester Metros, a team made up of students from the city's universities, alongside a handful of personnel from English National League side the Trafford Metros.

    The UoM team also boasted two guest pros - Manchester Phoenix duo Ciaran Long and Andy McKinney - and a number of their Phoenix team-mates were in attendance to cheer them along.

    The game started at a lively pace with both sides getting in some early shots and hits. UoM's Oliver Walker thought he had opened the scoring after 1.35 but MMU goalie Tom McDonald smothered the puck just in time.

    Long and McKinney had their dancing skates on for their first shift, nimbly skipping around defenders with some great stick handling - but McDonald kept them at bay, even taking a shot in the mask from Long.

    UoM made the pressure tell after 6.40 when McDonald could not hold Joe Holder's shot and Trafford Metros player Alex Pugh pounced on the rebound.

    MMU upped the tempo and replied just under three minutes later when Oliver Bayne worked an opening and gave UoM goalie Dan Walker no chance.

    The Long and McKinney Show was soon back on the ice, combining to open up the defence seemingly at will - but they still could not find the net, with Long rattling the MMU post not once but twice within the space of minute.

    UoM's impressive captain Kieren De'ath (great name for a hockey player, by the way) then surged the length of the ice only to be blown offside before Long and McKinney were at it again, forcing McDonald into another good save.

    UoM got the go-ahead goal with 4.10 left when Holder chipped home after goalmouth scramble.

    Long then punished some loose passing by MMU when he intercepted the puck, strode down the ice and expertly deked around McDonald to make it 3-1 at the buzzer.

    Both sides changed their goalies for the second period, with UoM bringing in Liam Jacques, while MMU had Rob Smith between the pipes.

    UoM picked up where they left off and a disastrous MMU turnover gave Pugh time and space to notch his second goal of the night.

    He racked up the hat-trick less than a minute later when Holder and De'ath set him up for a close-range shot. Smith got his pads on it but the puck slipped through and crawled over the line.

    MMU were not about to lie down, though, and Ben Robinson got them going with a crunching hit in the corner.

    They pulled one back on the power play after Andy McKinney was called for boarding. Trafford Metros duo Sean Day and Marc Etherington bamboozled the UoM defence with some good work behind the net, resulting in Etherington finding Day at the back post to make it 5-2.

    MMU carried their momentum into the final period and came flying out of the blocks with two goals in under three minutes.

    UoM's third goalie of the night, Robyn Maby, turned away two shots in quick succession but she was helpless as Adrian Rajkumar swept in the third.

    The deficit was reduced to one through Sean Day's close-range back-hand with 2.58 played and it was game on.

    Seconds later, MMU's James Lloyd stormed in on the crease, but the relatively diminutive Maby stood tall until the last second to make the save as the chasing pack crashed towards goal.

    By now, UoM's Ciaran Long seemed to have had enough of the fancy stuff and instead let fly with a vicious slap shot - but the returning McDonald showed some ninja skills to snatch it out of the air.

    MMU tied it at 5-5 after UoM's Alex Pugh was called for slashing, with Oliver Bayne scoring on the power play with 13.54 left on the clock.

    The goal horn was still blasting when UoM snatched the lead back as Long stepped up a gear and slammed a fizzing shot past McDonald, assisted by McKinney.

    The game see-sawed again seconds later after Pugh was harshly called for roughing. MMU pressed home the man advantage on the power play as Maby again turned away a flurry of shots before Ben Brown forced the puck home.

    MMU's Oliver Bayne then nearly shattered Maby's crossbar with a slap shot from well outside the blueline, but the puck bounced away from goal.

    At the other end, McDonald produced another fine save to deny Long.

    UoM managed to edge back in front with 5.49 to go. A frantic scramble saw MMU's netminder and defencemen throwing themselves at the puck on their own goal line but Joe Holder eventually found a way through to make it 7-6.

    A frantic finale saw the two sides trade chance after chance. MMU equalised when Etherington's central shot squeezed past Maby but with 3.28 remaining, Long sealed his hat-trick with another howitzer of a shot to take the score to 8-7.

    With MMU going all out, Maby preserved her side's narrow lead when denied MMU forward Manny Grewal with just 13 seconds left.

    There was just time at the buzzer for Trafford Metros team-mates Alex Pugh (in the UoM corner) and Lee Pollitt (in the MMU corner) to give the crowd a good-natured hockey "fight". Pugh got the jersey over his opponent's head, but Pollitt got the takedown, so let's call it a draw.

    Joe Holder was named Man of the Match for UoM with two goals and two assists. Ben Brown took the accolade for MMU thanks to a goal and three assists.

    The University of Manchester became the first team to lift the Varsity trophy and the Man of the Match winners each received a crate of beer, so everyone was happy.

    UoM will be back to defend their title next year and after the sizeable crowd left thoroughly entertained, it looks like the inaugural Varsity game has started a new and very welcome hockey tradition in Manchester.

    Courtesy of Cheshire Today By Andy Jowett