CUWIHC demonstrated composure and resilience to take the Varsity for the third year running david tudman

Cambridge demonstrated defensive fortitude and a clinical offensive edge to emerge the winners in the 37th Women’s Varsity to make it three wins on the bounce, and set the stage for a men’s victory later in the day which would make it another double Varsity win for Cambridge ice hockey.

Commencing slightly later than billed, the Light Blue women emerged to a raucous home support supplied by a sold out crowd seemingly keenly aware of the historic nature of the tie. With ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ greeting both teams for the warm up, a statement of intent was laid down early by a Cambridge team seeking to make this new home a fortress in this new chapter of an age old rivalry.

After each player received their introductions and the ceremonial puck drop was taken care of, both teams burst out the blocks looking to seize control of the game and get their fans behind them. This opportunity would fall immediately to the hosts however, as Number 2 Lauren Archibald found herself under little pressure outside the Oxford goal and was able to calmly slot into the bottom right of goal to get the game up and running.

With this early excitement getting the home crowd firmly on side, the game then settled into itself with a majority of play taking place in the middle of the rink. This was until Archibald sensed an opportunity to add to the Cambridge lead by sweeping around the back of the opposition goal and lodging a mean shot on target, forcing a fine save from Oxford keeper 42 Abi Owen.

Oxford then responded by lodging their first shot on target of the game as Sabrina Wang raced towards goal with speed but was ultimately only able to dispatch a timid effort which did not trouble Provence Barnouin in the Cambridge.

Provence Barnouin, who was outstanding in the Cambridge goal, was immediately mobbed by her jubilant teammatesdavid tudman

The next effort from the visitors certainly did however, as 14 Alisa Williams rifled off a shot destined for the top left corner before Barnouin, who registered an outstanding performance all afternoon, stuck out a hand for a fantastic reflex save to keep things equal.

Sensing the need to shore up the scoreboard with another goal, the Light Blues then broke as the puck found its way to Captain Number 9 Joa Hoshizaki who demonstrated a clinical finish to cut a shot across goal from the left to give the hosts a 2-0 lead after eight minutes.

After resumption, Oxford looked somewhat taken aback by the deficit and lacking in creativity as a result. A number of rallying efforts bought the puck into the Cambridge third but repeated shots lacked venom, and many fell at Barnouin’s legs for her to smother.

In response to this pressure, Number 3 Emily Berman then embarked on a fantastic solo effort, crossing the entire court unimpinged before reaching the Oxford danger zone and releasing a shot which was just a touch too close to Owen who was able to control it.

Toward the end of the first period Oxford grew into the game and were able to build more dangerous attacking play through a greater consistency in passing. In this, Barnouin’s outstanding defensive showing was highlighted as she smothered shot after shot to freeze the puck, break up the game and frustrate the Oxford offence to keep the game 2-0 at the buzzer.

As the second period began Oxford emerged far more vocal and audibly keen to put a barren 20 minutes behind them. And this almost paid immediate dividends as a flash of brilliance from Oxford 66 Emma Walker-Silverman dodged several Cambridge defenders before unleashing a fierce shot from way out which was only denied by the cross bar.

This was warning enough of the visitors intent, and Cambridge responded with several forays which drew multiple on and off target shots. In these, Berman was a constant nuisance to the Oxford defence, repeatedly twirling around players and peppering the goal with shots to leave spectators with the sense that another goal was a matter of when rather then if.

The roars and chants from the lively crowd inspired us to match their intensity and return to our disciplined and technical style of play, and this propelled us to victory.

It was to be Oxford however who would next emerge onto the scoresheet to remove the disconcerting threat of a shut out from their opponents. 17 minutes into the period number 23 Sabrina Wang was able to break through Barnouin’s otherwise formidable defensive line, as a goalmouth scramble saw the puck forced over the line with sheer persistence to make it 2-1. This gave the travelling support exactly what they had been waiting for as they erupted into noise for the first time, even producing an air horn to demonstrate their belated arrival.

Cambridge’s response was instant however, as Berman received just rewards for her tireless display as she slipped down the left flank and cannoned a powerful shot form some distance into the top of the net to restore a two goal margin at 3-1. This drove home an increasing sense of frustration for Oxford, and Walker-Silverman found her way into the sin bin immediately afterwards for aggressive play whilst Owen threw down her gloves in exasperation at the buzzer sound.

The final period represented a do or die moment for the visitors, and they seemed well aware of this reality. Piecing together several good bits of passing play they were able to reach the Cambridge goal on numerous occasions but found themselves in the familiar position of forcing shots at goal only for them to be pounced upon by Barnouin, with resulting goal mouth scrambles providing them no dividends for their toil.

Not seeking to rest on their laurels, the Light Blue’s then saw Number 19 Jia Kim surge up the right flank and smash an effort towards goal to force a fine reflex save from Owen which came millimetres from making in 4-1. Shortly after the towering Alison Sutherland made a break of her own to cross the entire rink unaided and dispatch another threatening shot goal bound but again to no avail.


Mountain View

Cambridge Crush Oxford in 102nd Men’s Varsity Ice Hockey

In the final few minutes a late rally saw Oxford throwing their remaining might at the game with Number 4 Joana Baptista attempting to rally the troops and lead attacks from the front, only for Barnouin to stand firm as she had all afternoon and prevent any kind of consolation goal in the last.

As the buzzer went to seal a 3-1 victory for the hosts the crowd erupted, and the entire Light Blue team raced towards their keeper to bundle her over in recognition of a standout performance between the sticks. A defensively resolute display from Cambridge was matched by sharp and incisive attacking play to render the victory wholly deserved, providing an enthralling first ever home Varsity display for the watching fans.

Reflecting on the result, captain Hoshizaki described this year's encounter as “a hard-fought battle between two highly-skilled and well prepared teams". She stated "Oxford may have had more veteran players but we brought a cohesive team that was driven to capture the cup for the third year in a row. We were focused and disciplined in using our strategic systems, which enabled us to get goals in the net early and manage threats throughout the game.”

“We maintained the lead largely because on each shift our players pushed themselves to play above their skill level and beyond exhaustion. We gave it everything we had and were rewarded with a victory we will remember for years to come.”

On the home support, she offered the view that “there was a time in the second period where the momentum began to shift to Oxford and that’s when the impact of the home ice was really noticeable. The roars and chants from the lively crowd inspired us to match their intensity and return to our disciplined and technical style of play, and this propelled us to victory.”

“Celebrating with the home crowd full of alumni, family and friends made this epic win even sweeter. We are honoured to have received so much support for women’s ice hockey from the Cambridge community.”