The old sporting adage of ‘“there’s no such thing as a friendly” is tossed around a fair bit, but rarely can it have been as apt than as to describe the OUIHC Blues’ clash with the London Dragons, as fire and ice came together in a brutal encounter in which the Dragons eventually prevailed 9 points to 6.
For those Brits in the crowd, it was an entertaining and eye-opening insight into the infamously violent nature of the NHL, where punch-ups and brawls are as much a part of the spectacle as the game itself. After reporting the Town vs. Gown clash, I described the game as a “physical contest’” In view of this match, however, it seems that I was somewhat naïve and may have slightly underestimated what the world of ice hockey deems to be ‘physical’. On estimate around half the players who participated were hauled off injured at some point during the contest, but who knows, perhaps even that is just considered as a bit of rough and tumble.
Played in aid of Helen and Douglas House, the 2012 BUIHA Division 1 National Champions travelled to Oxpens road looking to continue their near flawless start to 2013. The opening exchanges were somewhat disjointed with neither side able to piece together fluid attacking moves, but these two titans of the BUIHA soon found their stride and in the 8th minute Richard Pniewski broke the deadlock for the Dragons. Not to be outdone, Oxford’s reply was swift as Adrian Haight scythed through the visitors’ defence to level the match with a solo breakaway effort.
Haight stood out in his performance once again, both in his bright red shorts and his incisive attacking play, with the Canadian invariably involved in the home side’s successes at goal. As the Blues slipped to a 3-1 deficit, Haight set up Rashid Muhamedrahimov to fire in from range to end the 1st period just a point behind.
The Blues were culpable of conceding immediately after the resumption of play in both the 2nd and 3rd periods, however the Dragons score to make it 4-2 ignited controversy and prolonged discussions with the officials, as the contest began to heat up. But efforts from Chase Sova, Eric MacRae, Gino Bruni and Andrew Johnson ensured that the two sides entered the final third with nothing between them at 6 points apiece.
Further admirable mention must go to MacRae for his dedication to entertainment. As the game suffered a goal-drought during the 3rd period, he gallantly decided to give the crowd something to cheer about as he wrestled a Dragon to the floor before proceeding to do his level best to beat the crap out of him.
The game however, unlike MacRae’s unfortunate victim, began to slip away from the home side as the Dragons netted three unanswered points to triumph 9-6. Despite the loss, captain Christian Shepherd declared himself satisfied. “I was very pleased with the team’s performance, when we played them last term we got smoked 14-4, and the closer result this time round is testament to the hard work that the team has put in over the last few months.
“The season overall has been mixed. Some complications with fixtures meant that we had to forfeit a couple of games putting us pretty low down in the league stats. Despite that, we did beat Cambridge in our season opener and, given our current standard of play, another varsity victory in three weeks’ time is certainly within reach.”
When asked about some of the more controversial calls in the match, however, Shepherd seemed less than pleased. “There were a number of game changing penalties, including the penalty shot and when we went two men down in the third, that I personally think were bad calls.
“But we’ve got a lot of respect for London – they’re great guys and a consistently good team. It’s a relationship that we hope to keep building and the success of the high spirited (no pun intended) after-party at Maxwell’s is testament to that.”
So perhaps that gives a nod to another sporting code. As long as the players can enjoy a drink (or several) after the game then what matters of what happens on the pitch? Bring on the punches.