The crowd went deathly quiet at Varsity Arena on Saturday when the Laurier Golden Hawks tied it up in the final second of the third period.
But all was glorious once fifth-year forward Michael Markovic and the U of T Varsity Blues men’s hockey team found some OT magic to seal a 4-3 win.
Markovic was undoubtedly the first star of this game. He scored not only the pivotal third goal late in the final period, but also the clutch overtime winner. The fifth-year forward now leads the team with eight goals.
“Michael’s been our leading goal scorer for the last couple of years, and so that’s sort of an expectation on our part that he could put the puck in the net,” says head coach Darren Lowe.
Fourth-year forward Jeff Brown opened the scoring for the Blues midway through the first period when a nice feed from Paul Van De Velde presented him with a wide-open net to shoot at.
However, the Hawks responded quickly and recorded two goals only a minute apart. Justin Rasmussen scored on the power play with a nice shot to the top corner of the net and Erik Pushka gave Laurier the lead, pulling a nice deke in front of the net and backhanding it in.
Strong goaltending performances from Laurier’s Christopher Festarini and Toronto’s Michael Nishi would leave the second period scoreless with Laurier holding onto a 2-1 advantage heading into the final frame.
Second-year forward Russell Turner evened the score for Toronto with just over seven minutes to go as he tipped in a Lane Werbowski point shot, notching up his fourth point in the past three games.
Under a minute later, Michael Markovic received a centring pass from Dean Klomp and made no mistake, giving Toronto a 3-2 lead.
When it looked like a bagged win for Toronto in the final minutes of the game, Laurier managed to tie the game with less than a second remaining on the score clock with a mad scramble goal at the lip of the crease. Toronto defenders refuted the buzzer-beating goal to the officials to no avail and the game headed into overtime.
“It was a funny play,” said Markovic. “One of our players lost a visor and had to go to the bench, so it was essentially a 6-on-4. They scored that goal, but we had to forget about it because overtime was coming up.”
Three minutes into extra hockey, Lane Werbowski beat the defender to the outside and drove hard to the net. His initial shot was stopped, but Markovic tucked home the rebound and gave Toronto a 4-3 victory.
With two wins in a row this weekend, including a 4-3 win against Guelph on Friday, the Blues jump to fifth in the OUA West division and improve their record to 6-8-1 heading into the winter break.
“It’s just a huge momentum-builder,” says Markovic. “We got off to a pretty slow start this season, so we’re going to train really hard through this Christmas break, and then will get right back at it after the break is done.”
The Varsity Blues will return to action in the new year when they host the Brock Badgers on Sunday, January 4 at Varsity Arena.