Ice Hockey Highlights

17th March 2013

On February 18th the Capital FM Arena hosted the blue-ribbon event of the Varsity Series: Varsity Ice Hockey. Representative sides for the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, drawn from the Nottingham Universities Mavericks joint team, faced off in front of a full-capacity crowd for the biggest event of the Varsity calendar.

Simona Morar and Jack Maclaren were the hosts for the evening, and having introduced the event itself, they explained what the Varsity Series as a whole was about.

The two sides competing in Varsity spend the regular season playing together as a single combined team, the Nottingham Universities Mavericks. Jack and Simona speculated as to what effect playing against their regular teammates would have on the players.

Aside from the events on the ice, the Varsity Series events do vital fundraising work for charity every year. This year’s supported charity is Headway, which provides support for sufferers of brain injuries. We found out some more about them.

Of course the Varsity Series had already seen a variety of sports contested, including American football, rugby league, and basketball. We recapped what had happened so far.

With the atmosphere steadily building, the Arena saw its first (premature) fight as the Uni and Trent mascots scrapped on the ice!

We were delighted to be joined for the evening by Paul ‘Gloss’ Glossop, coach for the Nottingham Lions Ice Hockey team, for his expert insight into the night’s proceedings. Jack and Simona found out what his expectations were for the game.

Being the home of the National Ice Centre, the sport of ice hockey enjoys a considerable profile in Nottingham. Both the home teams, the Panthers and the Lions, enjoy considerable followings. Simon & Jack spoke to Gloss about how tonight might serve to further enhance ice hockey’s profile in Nottingham and beyond.

With the atmosphere brewing nicely, we sent audacious roving reporter Adam Wilkins in amongst the fans to sample how they were feeling in the stands.

As big an event of this needs a huge amount of organisation to pull off. Michael Gaffney spoke to AU Officer Jonny Bell to find out about the efforts that went into making Varsity Ice Hockey happen.

There’s no doubting ice hockey’s entertainment value, but it’s not a sport that everyone in the UK is acquainted with. Our commentator for the evening, Paul Millington, ran through the basics of the rules, with the help of the Sport Show’s own Simon Shah.

With the game start coming ever closer, Jack pressed Paul and Gloss for their predictions for how the game would pan out.

As the players performed their warmups, Gloss and Paul gave their assessment of how the teams would line up, and the tactics which they might deploy.

Prior to the game, Paul grabbed an interview with Trent captain (and overall captain of the Mavericks), Reece Clarke, to get his views on his biggest game of the year.

With faceoff just minutes out, the atmosphere in the arena visibly and audibly changed, with the lighting dimmed and both universities’ crowds in full voice.

Gloss picked out who his key performers for the night would be.

The crowd roared with excitement as both teams emerged through billowing smoke from the tunnel. The biggest game of the Varsity Series was about to begin!

Seconds out, Paul took Gloss’s views on where the game would be won and lost.

Hearing the entire 7000 capacity Arena belting out the national anthem was enough to make anyone’s hairs stand on end, and must have gotten the players pumped.

The game began to huge cheers, and with just 43 seconds gone, Uni’s first goal was scored by Luke Branin.

Trent were clearly rattled by the early goal, and Gloss emphasised that they needed to settle down.

Gloss gave his insight onto the two coaches, and their contrasting methods of pushing their players to impose themselves on the game.

And it wasn’t long before we saw what the crowd had come for – the first scrap of the night!

Uni made their sustained dominance pay, with a second goal courtesy of Hayden Chandler.

And in just over a minute Uni had yet another well-worked goal, putting the scores to 3-0. Trent would have their work cut out from here in in.

But Trent found the strength to claw back a conciliatory goal before the first period ended.

As the first period drew to a close at 3-1 to Uni, Paul handed back to Simona and Jack who took stock of a very profitable session for Uni. We also sent Adam Wilkins behind enemy lines amongst the Trent fans to speak to the girlfriend of Trent star player Gareth O’Flaherty – unsurprisingly she had a rather different assessment of the game to our analysis!

As the start of the second period approached, Paul and Gloss speculated as to how Trent could claw back from their 2-goal deficit.

The second period of play began fairly evenly, as Trent came out with a new resolve and attacked more, taking the game to Uni and putting as much pressure on them, as Uni put on Trent.

Great attempts by each side were denied by some excellent performances by both keepers in the second period. Gloss explained how important it was for the teams to have keepers who they could rely on.

As period 2 dragged on without a new breakthrough on either side, it was clear that the beginnings of fatigue were starting to slip into the game

Yet more impressive goalkeeping, as well an incoherent display from both Trent and Uni’s outfields in the second period kept the scores unchanged.

As the second period drew to a close, things were looking very rosy for Uni as they sat on their 3-1 lead. During the break, Stephen Prior spoke to the man who made the evening’s football ticket giveaway possible, Notts County Community Officer Matt Lawson. Matt and Stephen spoke about Varsity in the context of the many sports events on offer in Nottingham, and had a word about County’s ongoing hopes to sneak into the promotion slots. We also heard an interview Michael Gaffney grabbed with a couple of the Uni players before the match.

With the start of the third and final period upon us, Gloss marked out Luke Brannin as the key gamechanger with the potential to seal the win for Uni.

But Gloss also pointed out the threat posed by Trent’s Gareth O’Flaherty, and was convinced he had something in his locker which could upset the odds.

Answering a question texted to the studio from a listener, Gloss suggested that Trent coach Matt Bradbury was under the most pressure, looking to get one over on Uni coach Simon Hopkins, who is his boss within the Nottingham Lions!

The third period’s early stages were marked by continued solid performances from the two keepers, while the teams initially failed to take advantage of their respective powerplays.

With 10 minutes to go, Trent still had a 2 goal deficit to overcome. Gloss offered up his views on what they needed to do: namely, commit and attack!

And attack is exactly what they did. First, a superb drive forward from Jean-Francis Best setting up Gareth O’Flaherty for the goal.

That goal rocked Uni, and Trent took full advantage, grabbing their equalizer within seconds to put the scores to 3-3 and send their fans into raptures.

With the scores level and only a few minutes left, it was a time for someone to make themselves a hero.

The game changed when Oliver Glover, who had been harassing Trent captain Reece Clarke for the entire game, finally got his reward as after a rough challenge, Clarke threw his gloves down and set on him for a fight, completely losing his head. Both players were sin binned, but crucially, Clarke’s 10-minute suspension meant he would miss the rest of the game.

Once Glover’s suspension was seen out, Uni had a man advantage and with only 2 minutes of regular time left, they finally made it count. It was a superb show of individual skill by Luke Branin, beating 3 men on the way, which got Uni the winning goal. The Uni fans went wild!

The Uni fans counted down the final seconds of the game, and when the buzzer sounded, Uni were Varsity Ice Hockey champions once more, after 3 long years of defeat. An emotional Paul Millington asked Gloss for his Man of the Match.

With the game ended on a fantastic 4-3 Uni victory in the most dramatic of circumstances, it fell to Jack and Simona to round off proceedings, and reflect on how the Varsity Series’s premier event had panned out.

Thanks to everyone who listened live and texted in. Special thanks go to Paul Glossop for his superb punditry and analysis, and the Nottingham Lions for letting us take him for the evening. Special thanks are also due to Matt Lawson and everyone at Notts County FC for making the ticket giveaway possible. Extra special thanks to Simon Hopkins, and everyone else involved in the organisation of this fantastic event.