It must be something about playing at old Varsity Arena that brings out the best in the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team. The Blues were looking to get back on track after suffering their first back-to-back losses of the season last weekend against two extremely tough opponents: the Ottawa Gee Gees and the McGill Redmen.
Determined not to drop three in a row, U of T took to the ice with a renewed sense of determination. The Blues took control of the game right from the outset and Queen’s did not look comfortable with their furious pace.
The Blues hit everything in sight to begin the match and took advantage of the adrenalin rush the boisterous crowd supplied. They opened the scoring when defenseman Scott Johnson tallied only three minutes and 28 seconds into the game. The play was set up beautifully by centre Steve Hoar.
U of T’s aggressive play continued in the first period. After scoring the initial goal, the Blues responded with three more, taking a 4-0 lead into the second.
But after a terrible start to the contest, Queen’s responded to the Blues’ barrage of goals with two of their own, making the score 4-2. Defensemen Ben Barrett then scored for the Blues, restoring a three-goal lead. At the end of the second, the Blues led 5-2.
The Blues began to look sloppy in the third period and Queen’s took advantage right away. After enjoying a lot of open ice, the Golden Gaels scored a power-play goal against helpless Blues goalie Jaime Bruno.
After both teams traded goals, Bruno settled down and provided some excellent goaltending, shutting the door on Queen’s several times. The Blues’ defensive coverage by the Blues was occasionally lackluster, but the win was a decisive one for U of T. Blues captain Steve Murphy played an outstanding game and notched a hat trick.
After the 7-4 victory, Blues left winger Tyler Middlebrook explained the difference between this game and last weekend’s losses against Ottawa and McGill.
“The key to the game was [our] ability to control the tempo of the game,” said Middlebrook. “Because of our ability to control the pace of the game, we had an extra second to make the good pass or to take a decent shot.”
He also said the Blues’ strategy going into this game was to be extremely physical with Queen’s. That plan seems to have worked well, as the Golden Gaels took many undisciplined penalties, giving Toronto numerous power play opportunities.
U of T head coach Darren Lowe agreed with Middlebrook and said the win was a result of the team’s strong start.
“We won the game in the first period,” said Lowe, who was disappointed the Blues’ dominance wore off in the second and third periods. He said the team needs to play more efficient hockey for 60 minutes if they want to be considered an elite member of the OUA.
“I would like the team to have a lot more consistency in their games. This game was a perfect example of the Blues putting together one great period of play and two decent periods of play.” Lowe said he’d like to see the Blues improve their special teams play. Queen’s scored two of their four goals on the power play Friday night.
The Blues followed up last Friday night’s win with another impressive 6-3 victory over Royal Military College on Saturday. U of T’s record improves to 10-5-2, putting them atop the OUA’s mid-east division.
Photograph by Simon Turnbull