Another Wednesday night means another night of hockey for U of T’s tri-campus d-league teams, this time featuring a stellar UTM Eagles and a resilient and scrappy UTSC. The fast-paced, open-ended, physical game ended 4-3 for this year’s champions—the UTM Eagles.
It started off as most championship games do, with a bit of nervous excitement that translates to tentative and disorganized play. Unforced turnovers, ineffective puck movement and low percentage shots from UTM made it seem as though UTSC were the better team especially when UTSC found themselves open in front of the net time and time again. Yet the Eagles were still the more dangerous team, their speed carried them through the neutral zone with ease and they cut into the middle of the attacking zone unchallenged, but they couldn’t quite do anything meaningful with that quickness.
Around the fifth minute, the momentum shifted slightly for the Eagles but the longer they let UTSC hang around their net, the longer they risked going down in a game that they deserved to lead. They realized this and just before the end of the period, they poured on the pressure until the breakthrough came from UTM’s number twelve with his unsavable slapshot that beat the opposing goalie glove side and top shelf, 1-0 for the good guys with just forty-four seconds left in the period. Just enough time for him to score the second goal with just five seconds left off of a smooth little wrist shot, increasing their lead by two going into the second period.
The Eagles set themselves to cruise control for the first eight to ten minutes of the second period, carrying their first period momentum with them. The game at this point slowed considerably and UTSC lacked any urgency in their offense, and so the Eagles followed suit and stopped making meaningful plays as well. This was a mistake that UTSC took advantage of on the powerplay. A silly error leading to a serious turnover which gave Scarborough a nice and easy tapper to open their score-line 2-1. Déjà vu, Scarborough was quick to put up their second goal tying the score at 2 with two and a half minutes left in the second period. With UTSC all over the Eagles, not giving them anything but deep clearance attempts that often led to icing, they struck again and took the game over, 2-3 UTSC. Everything that was working for the Eagles early in the game was now working for UTSC who did it with more shooting efficiency.
Both teams went into the locker room and had a chance to re-group, re-evaluate, and finish their season with a strong third period. The ice freshly flooded and both teams ready to go, the puck dropped on this seasons’ final period. UTM’s goalie needed to play shutout hockey if he wanted his team to have a solid chance of winning and he did just that with an incredible sprawling pad save after being beat to his blocker side. He kept the game within one score and that’s all the motivation the Eagles needed. The pace turned break-neck, the scrums in front of the net more frenzied and each shot just a little more important, each save that much more crucial. Then all of sudden, after another six straight minutes of rope-a-dope two-hundred-foot hockey, the Eagles tied it up off a rebound goal by number nine, 3-3.
At two and a half minutes left in the period the Eagles score their fourth goal of the game. A clean up goal low in the goal crease by the game winning scorer number sixteen. He fist-pumps a celebration to an emphatic crowd and goes down the bench to receive props from his teammates.
Congratulation to the UTM Eagles for their championship win and a great amount of respect to the UTSC hockey team for a thrilling game.