The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team lost to the undefeated Western Mustangs in a harrowing match that went to double overtime on Friday night. The crowd at Varsity Arena witnessed an exciting, back-and-forth game, with spectacular goaltending on both sides. The Blues led twice, but in the end, they gave up three goals with a one-man disadvantage — solidifying the loss.
The first period was a true goaltending battle, with both teams kept scoreless. The Blues’ offence finally struck early in the second, with hardworking veteran forward Dean Klomp intercepting a Western pass and sneaking it past former Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Peter Delmas on a wraparound. Delmas wasn’t shaken by the goal however; stoning Blues forward Patrick Marsh on a breakaway two minutes later and denying a flurry of rebounds to keep the score close.
The Blues powerplay struggled on a series of close chances, including a brief two-man advantage, giving the Mustangs momentum halfway through the period. Third-year Blues goalie Michael Nishi was up to the challenge, making a string of highlight reel stops, including a spectacular diving save with his glove on a one-timer. However, the Mustangs evened the game up 1-1 on a powerplay goal of their own before the period ended.
In the third, the Mustangs didn’t make it easy for the Blues — pummeling the net with the puck and constantly screening Nishi who made 37 saves that evening. Forward Connor Cleverley fired a low-percentage shot from the right wall past Delmas to give the Blues a lead. The Mustangs pulled their goalie to gain the extra attacker with a minute and a half left, and Matt Marantz tied the game 2-2 with 1:23 remaining in regulation time.
Both teams played cautious hockey in the first overtime period. Mustangs forward Shaun Furlong got an excellent chance late, which Nishi stopped to save the game. Instead of going to a shootout after the five minute four-on-four, the two teams squared off in the Varsity Blues’ first ever three-on-three overtime period. However, the Blues didn’t get to enjoy it for very long. Rookie Mathew Campagna quickly took an interference penalty, and despite fearless penalty killing by captain Andrew Doyle, the Mustangs were able to score the game-winning goal on a rebound and complete the comeback.
The loss continues a trend of offensive inconsistency for the Blues, reflected by their mediocre 2-2-1 record this season. While the Blues more than kept pace with the ninth ranked CIS Mustangs, the Blues are going to have to focus on playing with discipline, and tightening up, when down a man.
The Blues return to Varsity Arena on November 6 when they take on the University of Waterloo.