(after sudden death overtime)
A near capacity crowd saw a sensational hour of ice hockey at Ice Sheffield as a gallant Uni team fought back from 2-0 down only to lose in a period of sudden death overtime after a 3-3 tie.
Whilst Uni have never lost the Winter Varsity trophy, they have never won the ice hockey, with Hallam claiming victory in the last five fixtures.
Hallam lined up without Oliver Barron, Lloyd Gibson and Nick Manning, who were with Team GB at the World Student Games in Harbin, China. Uni’s Stuart Brittle was also on international duty with the GB squad.
The game started with a flurry of Hallam attacks. In the first five minutes Uni goaltender James Zeller had to pull off no less than six saves to prevent his side succumbing to an early thrashing.
Matt Jeffcock and Tom Larcombe were creating problem after problem for the Uni defence, with Larcombe working the flanks and Jeffcock looking dangerous when given the faintest scent of the goal.
Despite Hallam’s dominance they couldn’t break the Uni defence to claim an early lead. For Uni, Eric Lee Cheong and Andy Terentjev always looked threatening on the counter.
Hallam continued to threaten the Uni goal but a gutsy Zeller prevented them from opening the scoring.
With five minutes until the end of the first period all the Hallam pressure finally paid off. Tom Larcombe rounded his defender and guided the puck to Chris Bryniarski who neatly tapped home the opening goal.
Hallam’s dominance continued, with Jeffcock and Bryniarski repeatedly either striking wide or calling Zeller into action.
Hallam should have made it 2-0 with a minute to go but Stephen Carr’s sliced shot missed an open net.
The second period started off as a rather dull affair. Neither side dominated and the tempo was that more suited to a training match than the biggest game of the calendar.
Eventually Hallam picked up the pace. Ben Duffy, Larcombe, Jeffcock and Bryniarski were all denied by Zeller, who was performing miracles in the Uni goal.
Zeller then made an unbelievable double save, first a fierce shot by Jeffcock and then the follow up by Larcombe. Somehow whilst on the floor from Jeffcock’s shot Zeller managed to pick himself up to prevent Larcombe from two yards, and the crowd were starting to wonder why he hadn’t been on the plane to China.
Uni were then struck a cruel blow as they conceded a controversial goal. After Jeffcock’s shot was saved by Zeller, Bryniarski tapped in the rebound. Zeller thought he’d cleared the puck off the line and protested to the match officials.
Uni responded with a positive attitude. Uni lecturer Mike Szollosy hit the post and Terentjev caused concern at the back for Hallam with long, jinking runs into the opposition’s half. Only poor finishing and saves from Hallam captain Andy Bagshaw saw the period finish 2-0 to Hallam.
An invigorated Uni team emerged from the tunnel for the final period. Uni captain Tom Ray opened his side’s account taking an opportunist strike early on after the puck whizzed around from behind the Hallam goal and fell into his path.
Uni for the first time in the game started a period of dominance. Pocket rocket Terentjev caused carnage in the Hallam half. He tied two Hallam defenders in knots before passing control to Lee Cheong who set up Jack Ware for the equaliser.
The surprise turnaround was completed three minutes later. Terentjev was becoming the thorn in Hallam’s side, and with another jink into the Hallam end he perplexed Bagshaw and set up Lee Cheong to put Uni into an unthinkable lead with 12 minutes left on the clock.
With five minutes to go Uni’s Luke Summers was binned and Hallam took advantage of the extra man.
Bryniarski got away from his marker and scored to Zeller’s left, completing his hat-trick and sparing Hallam’s blushes.
With 20 seconds left on the clock Terentjev found himself one-on-one with Bagshaw but the shot was straight at the Hallam tender.
The game went into sudden death overtime, and Hallam took control from the off. Larcombe hit the bar, and when the puck was played in the Uni end and found itself out wide on the left flank, Hallam’s Ben Davies rocketed into the net for a stunning strike worthy of winning an outstanding game.
Tom Ray, Sheffield captain, said: “It was a great game to play in and a great spectacle for all the fans. After the second period when we were 2-0 down I didn’t have to say much to the team. All I said was ‘look at the score, do something about it’. I think everyone can be proud of how they played today, it was a close call.”
Scott Parkin, Hallam assistant captain, said: “It was the closest ever game between the sides and was very exciting to play in. To be honest it was too close for my liking.
“It was great fun to see all the banners and to hear the crowd.”