Cherwell

Dark Blues Steal Varsity Triumph

You never thought you’d hear this, but it was a great day to be in Peterborough.The Blues approached the Varsity Match unbeaten this season, but having lost the last two meetings with Cambridge by large margins. In front of a capacity crowd the Light Blue team came out full of confidence and working hard in the first period, winning the one on- one battles for the puck to dominate a deeper Oxford team. Tab captain Andrew Ashcroft scored on a powerplay ten minutes in. Rutter added a second at 14.23 to leave the Oxford fans fearing a repeat of last year’s debacle. 2-0 at the 1st intermission. Captain Watt’s teamtalk seemed to change the Blues’ whole attitude. Where in the 1st period Oxford had seemed overawed by the much larger and more physical Light Blues, in the second it was the Dark Blues’ turn to outwork the other team. 37 seconds in, the deficit was halved when Oxford assistant captain Joseph Place converted Guy Régimbald’s set-up. A minute later, with Place occupying two Cambridge defenders in the slot, Régimbald walked out from behind the net all alone and slid a perfect shot past the Cambridge goalie to even the scores. This state of affairs persisted until Coté scored for the Light Blues on the powerplay at 37.19. Going into the final period 3-2 down, Oxford still had it all to do. The first minute and a half of third were taken up by a twoman Oxford powerplay, but marred by two Cambridge oddman rushes. Watt was acrobatic in goal to deny the final nail in the Oxford VM coffin. Cambridge were dispirited, and the fitter, moretalented Blues began to dominate. At 47.12 Régimbald’s crisp crossice pass found rookie blueliner Chris Pettengell, whose heavy wrist-shot through Zetlin-Jones’ screen found the net. For the first time in the 118-year history of the fixture, the Varsity Match was going to overtime: 10 minutes of sudden death play, and if it ended scoreless Cambridge, the holders, would retain the cup. But at the 62 minute mark controversy struck. As Holzman cut to the net with his head down he was hit hard by Ashcroft and knocked unconscious. The TV replay later showed the Light Blue captain making contact with his elbows, and the referees had seen it too. Ashcroft was thrown out of the game. Throughout the match the Oxford top line of Quong, Sproule and Colegate had been magnificent, with little concrete reward. Now was their time. The five minute powerplay had expired, and with two and a half minutes left the situation looked bleak. Mark Sproule picked up Kassen’s pass on the right wing and crossed the blue line with speed. The desperate Tab defence men tried to claw Sproule back as he cut in across the face of goal, turned and shot over the sprawling goalie. The stunned Cambridge players and fans could only look on as the bench cleared and the 500th Oxford goal in Varsity Match play won the Blues the closest match in living memory. Jon Quong received Oxford ‘Man of the Match’ honours, and Sproule the overall game MVP in a game that no-one present will ever forget.ARCHIVE: 2nd Week TT 2003