Judges and a ringside bell would have been more appropriate than referees and a buzzer at last Saturday’s men’s ice hockey game, where it would be safe to say more than a few players fell out of contention for the 2001 sportsmanship award.

In a tightly contested hockey-game-cum-boxing-match, U of T suffered a 3-1 loss to Universite Quebec Trois Rivieres (UQTR), the team that eliminated the Blues (2-3-1) from last year’s OUA semifinals.

Featuring an average of almost one penalty every two minutes, the most notable sequence of events came 3:28 into the third period when all hell broke loose and eleven penalties were handed out to seven different players for their roles in a fight.

“Competitiveness always does it. We wanted to come out here and beat them tonight,” said rookie Steve Hoar, adding that “it’s a good thing our guys are sticking up for each other.”

After U of T fell behind early in the second period on an unassisted goal by UQTR forward Jean-Pierre Cadorette, the game took on a notably physical tone. The sixth-ranked Patriotes’ (2-1-1) overall advantage in size was more than offset by the hustle of the Blues.

“Although we’re a small team, we play with big hearts over here,” said second-year winger Steve DiRenzo. “It’s good to see everybody backing each other as a team.”

The strong special teams play by the 2001 CIS national champions finally broke through a stingy shorthanded Blues defense in the third period when Jean-Philippe Leclerc one-timed a pass from Jean-Philippe Pare past Toronto goaltender Dave Lemanowicz for a 2-0 lead 12:45 into the final frame.

The Blues answered with a goal from captain Steve Murphy at the 18:52 mark, but hopes of a comeback were dealt a final blow when Pare flipped a shot into a keeper-free net with 57 seconds on the clock.

“These guys today had exceptional special teams,” said DiRenzo. “It was really tough to keep the puck on them.”

After coming away from the weekend with a loss and a tie (3-3 vs. Concordia on Friday) the Blues still have positives to draw from, despite only managing a single point over the two-game homestand.

“We can’t hang our heads right now,” added DiRenzo. “We gotta refocus and get prepared for next week.”

The team will travel to McGill next weekend to take on the Redmen on Saturday at 7 p.m. before their afternoon date with Ottawa at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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