Cambridge celebrate a fantastic 8–3 win on the Peterborough iceImran Marashli/Varsity

University of Cambridge 8

University of Oxford 3

Men’s Blues Varsity Match, Planet Ice Arena, Peterborough

Cambridge University Ice Hockey Club Men’s Blues rose to the occasion in the 99th Varsity match against Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, claiming the coveted King Edward Cup with an 8–3 victory in front of a raucous home crowd at the Planet Ice Arena in Peterborough.

The seriousness of the occasion could hardly have been greater, befitting the world’s oldest ice hockey rivalry – Oxford vs Cambridge – which dates back to 1885. With music blaring, drums banging, the British and Canadian national anthems playing, and Light Blue alumnus Jon Shanklin performing the honorary puck drop, the Planet Ice Arena, although in Peterborough, truly felt like Cambridge home turf. In their pre-match programme notes, Cambridge co-captains Vaclav Beranek and Spencer Brennan wrote of anticipating “nothing less than a hard-hitting, fast-paced battle”.

And that is exactly what they got. The early intensity and robust checking – not without the inevitable periodic outbreak of fisticuffs – amplified the already fervent atmosphere produced by the spectators.

The Light Blues got off to the best start, with William Theiss and Lars Wilsby forcing good saves from Oxford goalie Dan Lock. Such was the congestion of play in the Oxford end zone that Cambridge felt confident enough to take goalie Daniel Orvomaa off for a short period to make best use of their advantage. So it was no surprise when Cambridge opened the scoring: Cody Valdez scooted around the Oxford goal and flicked the puck towards the target, and the rebound fell to a lurking Christoph Kehle at the back post to give Cambridge a fully deserved lead.

After an imbalanced start, Oxford found their equipoise, helped by some Cambridge ill-discipline and the resultant power plays. Scrambles in the Cambridge slot became more frequent, and the Oxford equaliser arrived when Joseph Wenig was first to the rebound from a fierce Jason Lacombe slap shot and stabbed home. Orvomaa was now the busier goalie, having to pouch some impressive saves to stem the Oxford pressure and ensure the teams ended the first period at parity.

Where the first period was structured and tight, the second was open and unpredictable, a real scrap and end-to-end goal-fest. Another minor penalty gifted Oxford the power play and put the Light Blues under the cosh in the opening minutes. The pressure told as Patrick Thompson was on hand to give the Dark Blues the lead for the first and only time in the match from close range after the Cambridge defence had frantically denied Lacombe and Akama-Garren.

Matthew Rosseau (right) was narrowly denied a goal by a good save from Dan LockImran Marashli/Varsity

The Light Blue reply was lightning-quick. A head-to-head footrace saw Lars Wilsby out-muscle his adversary for the puck on the right, and his square pass opened up the middle of the rink for co-captain Beranek to score his first of the night with a snap shot into the bottom right corner. Cambridge then regained the lead with a power play goal of their own. Wilsby was in the right place at the right time on the edge of the crease to score as the puck deflected his way.

The barmy see-saw of a second period continued unabated. After Cody Hanson was consigned to the penalty box for holding, the power play cost the Light Blues once more when Tim Donnison burst into the slot, and the ensuing scramble allowed Johan Sjoberg to bundle home for 3–3.

But the Beranek-Wilsby combination were at it again to put Cambridge back in the lead. Beranek’s upfield pass set Wilsby away down the right channel, and the Swede was unerring in his swift wraparound finish at Lock’s near post. The crowd barely had time to catch their breath: five goals had been scored in less than 10 manic minutes of ice hockey, and there was no telling in whose favour the pendulum would swing next.

The bout eventually began to settle to Cambridge’s advantage, however, as Oxford conceded more penalties and Lock was called upon to pouch the puck on multiple occasions to deny Martin Smoragiewicz and Matthew Rosseau. And there was mild controversy when Theiss, through on goal, was tripped by Sjoberg but was not awarded a penalty shot, much to the dismay of the partisan crowd. At the buzzer, 4–3 perhaps did not do Cambridge justice, given their overall ascendancy and momentum.

The final period, though, sealed the deal in spectacular style. Within the first few minutes, a bizarre goal opened up a two-goal cushion, as an innocuous deflection from a Beranek shot somehow slithered its way between Lock’s pads and crept over the goal line.

It took the wind out of the Oxonian sails: Cambridge never looked back and, playing with the greater offensive intensity, stretched their lead ever further. Wilsby set up the lethal Beranek again for his hat-trick, and his three goals soon became four when a rapid counter-attack saw Valdez glide down the right channel to set up Beranek for a slick back-post finish. Oxford simply had no answer. The Light Blues were running riot, and it was now a question of how many it would be.

It turned out to be eight. The puck emerged from near the Oxford crease and Hanson laid it back to Brennan by the right face-off circle. Brennan then launched a pile driver of a slap shot, which whistled into the goal before Lock could even move, sumptuously capping off an unstoppable display of ice hockey from the Cambridge side in the final 20 minutes of play.

From then on it was a matter of counting down to the final buzzer, with Cambridge putting in some fearsome hits and checking to maintain their lead, and Orvomaa earning his man-of-the-match award via a string of saves.

Unable to penetrate a robust defence and inspired goalie, Oxford’s frustration only built even further as they conceded frequent penalties for slashing and roughing. Notwithstanding the inevitable fisticuffs at the end, the game was done and dusted. Cambridge were, once again, masters of the ice.

CUIHC: Orvomaa, Kehle, Hanson, Requiema, Howlett, Wilsby, Nathan, Theiss, Poe, Gut, Barabas, Rosseau, Beranek, Brennan, Valdez, Smoragiewicz

OUIHC: Lock, Chan, Wenig, Akama-Garren, Larson, Deagle, Sjoberg, Lock, Roth, Uckermann, Kelley, Smith, Thompson, Lacombe, Byrne, Kamoun, Stone, Donnison, Vesely