Nottingham’s Ice Hockey Varsity, a brief history….

14th February 2011

Now in to its seventh year, we look back over some of the previous events:

Varsity 2010

Ice Hockey Varsity 2010 Highlights:

The Trent FM Arena in Nottingham played host again to Varsity Ice Hockey, the sixth of its kind and the largest Varsity outside of America.

Trent lost the face-off but had the better of possession and territory in the early stages and had the first shot on goal, which was saved by Uni’s goaltender Mervyn Tasker. A two-minute penalty against Trent’s, Anthony D’Aversa resulted in the momentum switching in University’s favour but they could not take advantage of the power play (when one team has more players on the ice than the other) and it remained scoreless.

After the two minutes elapsed and Trent were back to their full quota, they again had the better of the play, this resulted in the first goal of the evening, scored by Trent’s James Wood, oin his Varsity debut. The puck found its way to him about a yard from goal and he slotted it home past Mervyn Tasker to give Trent an early advantage. Trent then went in search of a second and were in control of the puck and Tasker had to save on a number of occasions to keep the score at just 1-0.

Trent’s lack of discipline was also evident in the amount of penalties they were conceding but University could not take advantage and failed to score in any power play within the first period.However University’s Mike Davie reacted quickest to a rebound off the Trent keeper and the score was level at 1-1. This witnessed a shift in the momentum and ended up with University scoring a second through Tom Griffiths. A lack of discipline then cost University dear as 6 seconds into a power play Trent got an equaliser through Paul Moran, a player that had been highlighted before the match as a danger man. Trent then took a well-deserved lead of 3-2 into the break with Lee Hayward scoring one minute before the end of the period.

The second period started in quiet fashion with Trent having the upper hand but were not attacking with as much purpose as in the opening period. Again University had the advantage of a power play but could not make it count with them failing to add to the score line. Trent then extended their lead to 5-2 with two quick fire goals from Colm Cannon and James Wood, the later being a spectacular long range effort.

It looked as if Trent were on course to regain their Ice Hockey Varsity crown when Tom Griffiths pulled a goal back for university to put them just two behind at 5-3. Mervyn Tasker then pulled off a vital save with Trent missing a guilt edged opportunity to maybe put the game beyond University but then soon after Adam Robinson scored a fantastic goal to take it to 4-5, so it was game on again. Trent then dominated the final five minutes of the second period but neither side added to their score, with both sides losing men to penalties at the end of the period.

As the third period started Trent tried to close the game out by trying to control the puck and not commit as many men forward as they had done previously. This resulted in the game becoming scrappy and disjointed as the tempo dropped. With just under 10 minutes to go after a series of substitutions, Trent conceded a penalty due to holding, Anthony D’Aversa being the culprit. This proved crucial and provided University with a route back into the game. Stewart Bliss University’s captain leading from the front with a good finish making it 5-5. However immediately some sloppy defence from University resulted in Trent’s O’Flaherty regaining the lead for his team. This left 8 minutes for University to try and get back into the game otherwise they would lose their Ice Hockey Varsity crown and Trent would take a 2-0 lead in the 2010 Series.

As University pushed for the equaliser Trent looked dangerous and a number of occasions Mervyn Tasker had to save his team. As time elapsed it looked ever more likely that University would come away disappointed. Trent’s number 21, Dean Mills was having an outstanding game and was breaking all of University’s attacks up. Then as we entered the final four minutes Roland Soltys saved the day and sent the University fans wild with a tremendous slap-shot to level things at 6-6. Mervyn Tasker then thwarted Trent, who had great opportunities to win the match in the last few minutes. As we entered the last seconds both sides had unsuccessful long range efforts.
This meant the match ended 6-6 and resulted in us having a penalty shootout to decide procedings.

Tom Griffiths stepped forward for University to take the first penalty against his brother in the Trent goal. The attempt was unsuccessful, Trent stepped forward with Moran and he missed as did Nilsson and Lane for University and Hayward and O’Flaherty for Trent. This meant after three attempts each we were still waiting for our first score. Up stepped Mike Davie for University who managed to break the deadlock and push the puck past the advancing Trent keeper. This put the pressure on Mills for Trent who crumbled and it gave University the chance to take the match. The opportunity fell to who Adam Robinson who was cool under the pressure and slotted the puck home to give University the Match, 2-0 on the Shootout.

It was a thrilling end to a wonderful game and University managed to retain the Ice Hockey crown. A special mention has to be given to Mervyn Tasker who saved University on numerous occasions and if it wasn’t for him Trent would have run away with the game. Both teams can be proud that they provided a wonderful specticle and it leaves the 2010 series level at 1-1 with all to play for in the coming weeks and months.

URN Man of the Match: Mervyn Tasker (Uni)

Uni win penalty shoot-out 2-0 (tied 6-6 at the end of normal time)

Varsity 2009

A sell-out crowd of 7,000 fans packed into the Trent FM Arena to see Nottingham Uni buried 5 years of hurt with a stunning 6-1 victory at the National Ice Hockey Arena to take an overall lead 2-1 in the Varsity series.

Goals from Tom Griffiths, Adam Robinson, Stuart Bates, Ben Bliss, and two from man-of-the-match Mike Davie gave Nottingham Uni their first victory in the history of the competition. Marcus Maynard replied for Trent in a game that started freely but grew scrappy towards the end as the outcome went beyond doubt, with several fights breaking out and eventually a mass brawl that entertained the crowd, but showed Trent’s frustration at their inability to get back into the game.
The first period saw plenty of attacking play, Trent applying all the early pressure, but several shots found Uni ‘keeper Michael Snook in top form. Nottingham’s response was to hit hard and fast on the break, utilising the speed of their wingers, and their strategy paid off when Tom Griffiths broke from the right, slotting past his brother Richard in the Trent net.

Cue pandemonium in the stands, since the face off Trent fans had been winning the vocal battle but Nottingham support roared back upon taking the lead. Unsurprisingly it seemed to spur the team on, Uni kept pressing as the Trent players’ heads dropped. The pressure nearly paid off as Uni twice had the puck in the net but both times some slightly harsh refereeing ruled out both efforts and it was Trent who were happier to hear the end of period buzzer.

The second period started in the same vein as the first, with plenty of end-to-end action on the ice. The tension, however, began to get to both sides as Ben Bliss suffered the first of four penalties in the period, having tripped Trent’s Danny Williams. The sucker punch came five minutes in, Uni again on the break, Anthony Ceraulo pushed hard on the right before squaring for Adam Robinson to flick in from close range to make it 2-0. The frustration for Trent was evident, Valtteri Wiitakorpi and Simon Ruszala both ending up binned for some petulant play: tripping and high sticks respectively.

There was even blood on the ice at one stage as things heated up as expected. This breaking up of the play suited Trent and they capitalised, the impressive Marcus Maynard, back from representing the British Universities team in China, stole between two Uni defenders and finished well to bring Trent back into the tie at 2-1. This, however, was the turning point for Uni, who struck back instantly through Stuart Bates and a sumptuous finish from Mike Davie, slotting between the ‘keeper’s legs. With a 4-1 lead, Uni were cruising into the final break.

As the Third Period began, the animosity was palpable and finally a fight looked on the cards. Penalties for Ceraulo, Dean Mills and a second for Wiitakorpi didn’t calm things, and by the time Mike Davie latched onto a rebound to make it 5-1 and Stuart Bliss had added a sixth after a scramble, things were beginning to kick off. Snook in goal for Uni had admirably kept everything else out and Trent’s inability to break through the tough Uni defence meant the fights started to break out. Bates took on Wiitakorpi, Mills faced up to Ruszala, before a mass brawl broke out with almost all the lines getting involved. Martin Hrdlicka in goal for Trent even tried to take on James Cantle who had replaced Snook, but nothing materialised, much to the crowd’s disappointment.

The game ended soon after and the delight of the Uni players was clear for all to see. A resounding 6-1 victory, well deserved on the night, also gave Nottingham a crucial 2-1 lead in the overall series. Back to the drawing board for Trent, although they can feel hard done by the score line, on another evening the score could have been a lot closer.

Final Score 6-1 to Uni

Varsity 2008

With the score still nothing apiece after two periods, both teams emerged from the tunnel for the third period anticipating another nail-biting Varsity penalty shoot-out. However, after only 3 minutes, Trent capitalised on well-worked move in the Nottingham zone, after a hard shot by Trent defenseman Lee Haywood was blocked by Nottingham centre Simon Hopkins. With all the luck flowing Trent’s way, the puck fell into the path of Ben Wood who made a neat pass to Si Ruszala who beat Nottingham’s netminder Mervyn Tasker on the blind-side. The Trent Army raised the roof in celebration and their players couldn’t resist taunting the Nottingham Uni bench, causing a minor scuffle but resulting in Nottingham’s Greek National team player, Cles Lambridis, being ejected from the game for punching Trent’s Mark Illingworth in the head, whilst standing on the bench. The instigator of this scuffle was Trent’s goal scorer, Si Ruszala, who then sat a 10 minute penalty for incitement. The rest of th period saw chances both ways as a frustrated Nottingham team still couldn’t finish their chances. Trent were tiring in an effort to maintain their lead and fend off a determined Nottingham. It wasn’t until Si Ruszala left the penalty box that Trent sealed the game with an assist on Tom Larcombe’s goal. One more penalty apiece saw the game finish 4 on 4. However, it was Trent that claimed the bragging rights for another year, successfully defending their title and making it four wins in as many games.
Man of the match awards deservedly went to the goalies – Tome Devey (Trent) and Mervyn Tasker (Nottm), having faced 32 shots each.

Final Score 2-0 (P1 0-0, P2 0-0, P3 2-0

Varsity 2007

Attendance figures showed that there was in excess of 3500 people present for the game.

Trent were off the starting blocks first through Valtteri Wiitakorpi finishing with a cheeky deek after just 20 seconds. A sharp sniper shot from Alex Karsey gave Nottingham a short equaliser before Valtteri Wiitakorpi went straight back down the ice to score again, putting Trent back infront.

In the second period the heat was really turned on, both teams were on the receiving end of some controversial refereeing leaving many players sitting in the box. However, this furthered the intensity of the game, with many power plays for both teams, some five on three’s benefited the Nottingham team as they capitalised on Trent’s mistakes through Alex Karsey to finish the period at 2-2.

The third period started like the second finished, big hits from both sides, Dean Mills put Trent back in front only for Nottingham to equalise half way into the period through another power play goal by Alex Karsey. However, Trent didn’t crumble as a ram around goal by Tom Larcombe put Trent back in front, then in the dying minutes Nottingham pulled Michael Snook the net minder to pile the pressure on Tom Devey in the Trent goal. In the dying seconds Anthony D’Aversa finished the game, rubbing salt in the Nottingham wounds by wrist shooting the puck from the offensive blue line into the empty goal.

Final Score 5-3 (P1 2-1, P2 0-1, P3 3-1

Varsity 2006

After taking the lead in under 10 seconds and going 2-0 up in as many minutes, the University of Nottingham team looked sure to triumph over Trent University in the 2nd ever varsity meeting.
However, a determined Trent outfit adopted a tough style of play in an effort to stay in the game.
Although Nottingham looked sure to win with a couple of big leads for the majority of the game, Trent managed to tie 5-5 in the last 2 minutes of play.
The penalty shoot-out saw Trent steal the trophy from Nottingham in a game which many acknowledge to be the most dramatic in the event’s history.

Final Score 5-5, Trent win on penalty shots