By Elliot Marshall
Cardiff Redhawks skated their way to a monumental 5-2 win over former National Champions, Cambridge Blues in a thrilling encounter at the Ice Arena Wales.
The Redhawks, freshly promoted to Southern Division 1, the highest level of British University Ice Hockey, after topping the second Division by just one point last season took on the Cambridge Blues, Southern Division 1 Champions 2015/16, National Champions 2015/16 and consisting of 0 British-trained players, two weeks ago. The last time these two teams met back in 2014, Cambridge came away with a decisive 24-6 win. No matter how you look at it, the Redhawks had their work cut out.
The First Period at Ice Arena Wales started off as expected with Cambridge dominating possession and the Redhawks struggling to clear the puck and create any fancy plays in the attacking end. The extra training and professional coaching of the Cambridge team really showed as they retained possession and passed the puck with ease, finding teammates almost telepathically. With sheer grit and determination, the Hawks held on and started to simplify their game and create chances in the opponent’s end, although these were not enough. At 18:27, moments before the end of the period, Cambridge found a rare rebound from the pads of Cardiff Goalie Jamie McGirr and managed to send it home. 1-0 Cambridge. Just 10 seconds later the Away Team scored another, but this was disallowed due to a player interfering with McGirr. A scramble around the Cardiff net ended the period, with Hawks’ Captain Bryn Griffiths picking up a two-minute penalty for what can only be described as picking up and launching a player as if he was competing in the shot-put.
Despite the late goal, the Cardiff dressing room was full of optimism, realising that the days of 22 goal defeats were gone. Cardiff would start the second short-handed. For those unfamiliar with Ice Hockey, when a player receives a penalty he sits in the ‘Sin-Bin’ for a certain length of time – usually 2-minutes – and for the duration of that time the team play with one less player (short-handed). The man advantage would prove beneficial for the Blues as they put away another shot after just 18 seconds. 2-0. Not deterred the Cardiff team fought harder and broke down the Cambridge defence leading to scoring opportunities by Alternate Captain #21 Sam Seymour and #17 Ellis Price. Mid-way through the period newly recruited, Lithuanian forward Gediminas Jadkauskas found himself open in front of the Cambridge goal and buried it into the top of the net after a beautiful tape to tape pass from Ellis Price. 2-1. Cardiff had found their scoring ways!
Minutes later a scuffle in front of the net led to an altercation in which Cambridge’s Goalie Daniel Orvooma threw a haymaker into the face of a Cardiff player, reminiscent of the McGregor/Alvarez fight just days earlier. He was ejected from the game and Cardiff suddenly noticed that Cambridge were without a backup Goalie. The atmosphere on the Hawks’ bench was electric as Cambridge dressed their coach to go into goal. An attacking ten minutes of hockey saw another new face Cardiff’s #34 Cameron Basnett tie the game with 30 seconds to go in the second period. 2-2.
The period break came and went and the Redhawks came out into the third with one thing on their mind, the third goal. The attacking pressure kept on coming from a rejuvenated Cardiff team as Cambridge started to back off under the unstoppable force of a Redhawks attack! 7:24 into the 3rd period the deadlock was broken, as a fluid 1-2 play between Cardiff’s #37 Craig Adams and #34 Cam Basnett, saw Adams free to take the shot, and he made it count. 3-2 Redhawks! The faces of the Cambridge bench were not a pretty sight, as it dawned on them that the Hawks from Cardiff were beating the British National Champions. The onslaught didn’t stop there, at 53:50 ex-GB player #5 Ben Edwards doubled the lead sending the Hawks flying! (pardon the pun). 4-2. In an act of desperation, the Cambridge team called a time-out and then with 1:30 left pulled the goaltender, giving them a 6-5 player advantage (Teams are allowed to swap their goalie for an outfield player mid-way through the game). A heroic defensive effort by Cardiff’s third line saw them jumping in front of shots left, right and centre as they repelled the Cambridge attack. An attempted clearance from President #19 Elliot Marshall found its way to Cardiff’s token Canadian #87 Justin Racine, who managed to somehow find the empty Cambridge net with one second to go. Making the final score 5-2 to the Cardiff Redhawks, their first win against Cambridge in the history of British University Ice Hockey! Man of the Match for Cardiff: #9 Joonas Barbadillo, Cambridge: #30 Matthew Rosseau