The Light Blues celebrate their victory Olia Zadvorna

The Cambridge University Ice Hockey Club Men’s Blues wrote another chapter in the sport’s oldest rivalry when they routed the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club in an 8-1 win on Saturday night. Cambridge’s victory in the 101st Varsity match was doubly sweet as they reclaimed the coveted King Edward Cup and secured a first-place league finish over their arch-rivals, thereby earning a match-up against Edinburgh for the national championship next month.

A palpable atmosphere preceded the opening puck drop in Oxford. Varsity is the most important match of the season for both teams, and the Oxford Ice Rink was packed with fans decked in their respective shades of blue. Although this year’s match was held in Oxford, there was a sizable contingent of raucous Cambridge supporters who had travelled to watch the game. Wielding their banners and booming chants of support, the Light Blues’ fans made it clear from the opening introductions that their opponents would not enjoy an easy home-ice advantage.

This intensity in the stands would be matched only by the intensity on the ice. From the start, Cambridge played their trademark brand of free-flowing, faced-paced hockey as developed by coach Robert Stellick. This game plan produced early offensive chances for leading scorers Benjamin Proyer, Martin Limback-Stokin, and team captain Christoph Kehle. However, Oxford’s defence — backed by goaltender Fabian Sivnert, the University’s Sportsman of the Year — was able to withstand Cambridge’s initial onslaught in the opening minutes.

“Varsity is the most important match of the season for both teams, and the Oxford Ice Rink was packed with fans decked in their respective shades of blue”

The Dark Blues played a physical game, but the Light Blues largely dominated possession during the game’s opening period. Putting Oxford under sustained pressure, it was only a matter of time before Cambridge found the back of the net. Cambridge’s assistant captains would provide the goals in this opening period: Proyer opened the scoring by converting on an odd-man rush, and, moments later, defenceman Ivan Grega sniped a shot past Sivnert from the point. When Grega’s shot hit the net, the Cambridge crowd erupted with cheers; Cambridge would take a well-deserved 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

The second period picked up where the first ended: Cambridge taking advantage of their speed and puck-movement ability, and Oxford playing a physical, defensively-minded game backed by Sivnert’s goaltending. Oxford managed to momentarily contain Cambridge’s potent offence, but in doing so they incurred a number of penalties. With an extra man advantage, Cambridge’s league-best power play made the Dark Blues pay dearly. First, Lucas Maddalena finished a flurry of offensive chances by lifting the puck past a scrambling Sivnert. Soon after, defenseman Evgeny Goncharov— famous for his cannon-like slap shot— blasted another goal from the point.

Cambridge now had a 4-0 lead, and Oxford were desperate to get on the scoresheet. The Dark Blues’ pair of Jason Lacombe and Will Andrews attempted to bring their team back into the game. Through an individual effort, Andrews managed to scrape one goal back for Oxford. However, Cambridge quickly regained composure and Andrews’ goal would ultimately prove to be Oxford’s last true scoring chance of the evening. Forwards Reed Macey and Jonas Fiala put unrelenting pressure on Oxford whenever Cambridge lost the puck, while a defence lead by Grega, Goncharov, Taylor Kitchen, and Scott Partington kept the Dark Blues’ advances thoroughly in check. When Oxford did manage the occasional shot on goal, Cambridge goaltender Matthew Neville made the save with ease. The game would remain 4-1 as the second period came to a close.

With twenty minutes left to defend their lead and earn a Varsity victory, Cambridge started the final period with a determination their opponents simply couldn’t match. A visibly frustrated Oxford team quickly fell into penalty trouble: Aneel Brar received a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind, and Andrews received a ten-minute penalty for checking to the head, effectively barring him from play for the rest of the game. Cambridge took advantage of this opportunity, with Proyer feeding a silky pass to Jaroslav Zapletal for a back-door goal which swung all remaining momentum firmly into the Light Blues’ favour. Cambridge’s Phillip Holbrook returned from his own penalty troubles and scored two goals in quick succession — one by deflecting a Partington shot, another from an assist by Proyer— which brought the lead to an overwhelming 7-1 with less than five minutes remaining. Proyer provided the Cambridge supporters with one last goal to celebrate as he scored his second goal in the last minute of the game, extending the Light Blues’ lead to 8-1.

The late barrage of Cambridge goals put emphasis on the fact that, from the first period onwards, the game’s result was never truly in doubt. When it was all said and done, the Light Blues’ goaltender Neville had provided a solid and admirably consistent performance between the pipes, while the Cambridge offence rose to the occasion and managed to put eight goals past last season’s Varsity stand-out Sivnert. In particular, it’s worth highlighting the contributions of Benjamin Proyer, who received man of the match and Varsity MVP for his stellar showing of two goals and three assists.


Mountain View

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When captain Christoph Kehle raised the King Edward VII Cup, the Cambridge team and their supporters could celebrate a thoroughly deserved victory. After a crushing overtime defeat last season, the Light Blues had managed to exact revenge on their rivals and earn a spot in the national championship match. No matter how the mighty Blues fair against Edinburgh, the Varsity victory will surely be a highlight of the season— as every Cambridge fan knows, nothing is better than a commanding victory in Oxford’s own rink.

In the battle known as ice hockey’s oldest rivalry, Cambridge once again reigns supreme.

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