The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team hosted the Windsor Lancers at the Varsity Arena this past Sunday, in a battle for fourth place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division. The Blues defeated the Lancers 4–3 in one of their best games of the year.
The opening period was very even, with the Blues playing their typical hard-hitting style of hockey, and the Lancers responding in kind. The deadlock was ended 13 minutes into the frame, when Blues captain Blake Boddy took advantage of a botched breakout by the Windsor defense and put a shot on goal. Windsor goaltender Taylor Speed made the initial save, but Blues forward Ernesto Valente kept the play alive and fed the puck to Boddy in the slot, who made no mistake on his second scoring attempt.
Early in the second frame, Boddy and Valente were at it again. On a 3-on-1, Valente drove to the net and Boddy faked the shot before passing to Valente for a tap-in goal. It was an example of the sort of selflessness that fans have come to expect from Boddy.
After a rebound goal by Windsor rookie MacAulay MacDonnell narrowed the deficit to one, the Blues scored again at the 10-minute mark of the second period. Toronto forward Jeff Brown jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone along the boards and outworked Windsor defender Paul Bezzo, cutting to the net and deking to the backhand for a highlight-reel goal.
The Blues found themselves in penalty trouble soon after the Brown goal; the grinding line of Casey Knight, Dean Klomp, and Russell Turner came up huge, along with ever-solid goalie Brett Willows, who praised the performance of his penalty-killers: “The guys on the PK did a great job of getting in lanes, blocking shots and clearing rebounds. As a goalie that’s all you can really ask.”
The Blues’ penalty-killers couldn’t hold off Windsor’s snipers indefinitely, and the Lancers evened the score just over six minutes into the final frame, with two goals in 13 seconds.
With the game tied and the momentum against them, Toronto dug deep and scored.. Forward Christian Finch, playing in his first game for the Varsity Blues, tipped a Dylan Heide point shot just inside the post for the game-winner. The Blues hung on for the victory, including a suspenseful 6-on-4 penalty kill in the final two minutes of play.
Penalty troubles aside, it was an excellent first home game of 2014 for the Blues. Willows was excellent, Brown played one of his best games of the season, the shot-blocking was fantastic, and the team showed its characteristic resilience, winning in dramatic fashion.