Sheffield Hallam came out 6-3 winners in the annual Varsity ice hockey 1’s match against the University of Sheffield as they reduced the deficit in the overall score to 3-2.
Uni were huge underdogs heading into this match considering that they had never won this event in the history of Varsity. Hallam’s quality had proved to be too much for Uni last year as they came out comfortable winners by the same scoreline.
A sell-out crowd of 8,000 at the Sheffield FlyDSA Arena paid tribute to Sheffield Hallam’s head of sports services Dan Porter before the match who sadly passed away recently following a long battle against cancer.
As expected, it was Hallam who made the stronger start to proceedings and they forced Uni net-minder Callum Steventon into a number of early saves. The 20-year-old kept out a good effort from Jake Renzi within the opening five minutes before also denying Joe Colton just moments later.
It was a feisty opening period and an altercation between both sets of players did breakout with around with around seven minutes played following a shot from Hallam’s Ross Gallacher.
Uni did take a while to settle down into the encounter, with their first threatening attacking move coming as a result of some good individual play from Solomon Smith which eventually came to nothing.
However, the black and gold side of the arena were not kept quiet for long as Uni took the lead with 8 minutes and 20 seconds played through Will Paine, assisted by Smith.
Uni’s Jerry Tang received a two-minute penalty for holding the stick with around six minutes left to play in the opening period and Hallam wasted no time in making the powerplay count.
19-year-old Colton, earlier denied by Steventon, made no mistake this time as he made it 1-1 with a good finish with 14 minutes and 31 seconds played, assisted by Dominic Martin and Charlie Saunders.
Uni tried to start the second period on the front foot and Tang did force Hallam net-minder Nathaniel Bell into an early save.
Hallam were penalised several times throughout the second period for a range of offences but Uni were unable to capitalise on this as Hallam remained resolute in defence.
They were punished for this with 32 minutes and six seconds played as Hallam took the lead for the first time on the night as soon as they returned to full strength. Martin converted from close range for his side to make it 2-1 at the second attempt.
This clearly gave Hallam a huge lift and with momentum on their side, they doubled their advantage just moments later. From what appeared to be an impossible angle, Saunders somehow scuffed his effort into the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Going two behind had clearly affected Uni mentally and forced them to take a timeout. However, this break in play appeared to have worked to their advantage as they reduced the deficit to one. Uni’s Smith fired home with 34 minutes played, assisted by Michael Szollosy and Max Gerstein.
Uni’s Connor Pike received a five-minute penalty in the latter stages of the second period and Hallam capitalised on this by restoring their two goal advantage just before the buzzer through a composed finish from Jake Renzi.
Hallam looked to have put the match beyond Uni with around five minutes played in the final period as Matt Unwin made it 5-2 as he swept home easily after being assisted by Nathan Dorrian and Gabriels Grzibovskis.
However, Uni did not give up and pulled one back moments later. It was not the most spectacular of goals but Gareth Pirie got his side back into it by reducing the deficit back down to two.
Despite this, Hallam’s attacking moves were just proving too good as they made it 6-3 with 10 minutes left to play in the match. Saunders grabbed his second goal of the game, assisted by Colton and Martin.
Hallam had time for another goal to be disallowed by the referee in the latter stages of the match but this did not stop them going on to condemn Uni to yet another defeat in this annual event.
Photo credit: Rama Alsammouah