The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team took on the McGill Redmen last Saturday night in the hopes of scoring four points at Varsity Stadium over the weekend. After two road losses the weekend before, the Blues needed the four points to prevent dropping lower in the standings. Last Friday, the Blues took on Waterloo in a 5-4 victory, putting them a single point behind Waterloo. A win on Saturday would have meant they would move in front of the Warriors and one step closer to bridging the gap between them and the top-seeded teams.
“We never quit,” said Varsity Blues captain Andrew Doyle. “We always take the play to them. Those two late goals showed them that and they were huge for us.” The McGill Redmen, ranked fourth overall in the country, started the game hot, scoring early in the first period. Max Lindsay for U of T answered the goal with just over five minutes left in the first period. All tied up, the period was expected to end with both teams scoring a goal each, but in under one minute, McGill snuck two goals past Blues goaltender Brett Willows and stretched the lead to 3-1 to end the first.
The Blues came back flying, generating offence and numerous scoring chances, but couldn’t manage to sneak anything past the Redmen goaltender. The game took on a personal turn, with greater aggression between players as the play intensified. “We need to stay out of the box,” Doyle said. “We were struggling with the penalty kill. Some penalties we can take, but not all of them.”
The Blues then trailed 4-1 at the beginning of the third and play continued to get more physical as players tried to shake the opponents with booming checks into the boards. Again, U of T generated offence and more scoring chances but couldn’t manage to squeeze one past the Redmen goaltender. Doyle, who managed to have several scoring opportunities, said, “I need to work on a shift-by-shift consistency and be that penalty-kill man I need to be.”
With a minute left in the game, the Blues head coach pulled the goaltender, hoping to put more goals on the scoreboard. Two quick goals managed to shorten the lead to 4-3 and the Blues were back in the game. With only five seconds left on the clock after Charlie Connell’s goal, time had run out for the Varsity Blues.
“They have very quick, mobile defencemen,” Doyle mentioned. “We had to be quick and not give them any time.” The Blues’ success came from the pressing forecheck they operated throughout the whole game. Although the game ended with a narrow loss, the Blues forwards know they can take on the best, and the defencemen know they can shut down prime contenders. McGill will think twice about having an easy game next time against the boys in blue.