Close to midnight on Friday the 5th of November, the Cambridge Blues Ice Hockey Club travelled to Milton Keynes where they faced-off against a skilled London Dragon team. It was a difficult second match for the Blues, forced to take the ice after only two practices and a tough test against bitter rival, Oxford, the previous week. Drawing on a wide talent pool that includes all of the constituent schools of the University of London, the Dragons opened the game at a marked advantage. With more on-ice practices, fewer personnel changes from last season and a team that largely materialised over the summer, the Dragons arrived in Milton Keynes as the perennial league favourites.
Notwithstanding these challenges, the Blues stormed onto the ice in the first period and quickly controlled possession of the puck, forcing the Dragons onto the defensive and peppering the London goalie with a flurry of quality shots. The Blues struck first when the team’s speedy Scottish winger Ryan McGinley picked up the puck in the neutral zone and accelerated wide, beating a helpless London defender and cutting to the Dragon net. A smooth, top-shelf wrist shot made the score 1-0 Cambridge. Within minutes the Blues capitalised on their momentum. The play again began with McGinley in the neutral zone, swinging wide and finishing with a surprise snap shot. McGinley’s line-mate, the imposing Winnipeg native Thor Richardson, jumped on a juicy rebound in the slot and hammered the puck home to give Cambridge the 2-0 lead. At the start of the second period the Blues still lead by two goals, but London’s rapid transition game was beginning to pay dividends. Toward the middle of the period, the Dragons began to cycle the puck down low in the Cambridge zone, unleashing a barrage of shots on the Blues’ brick wall of a net-minder, Carl Mazurek. After a series of spectacular saves, the Dragons finally broke through and tallied several critical goals before the end of the period.
In the third and final period, Mazurek and a reinvigorated Cambridge defense continued to stifle the London attack, and the Blues re-took the momentum with strong pressure in the London end. Playing with an intensity laudable of any team, let alone a squad boasting only a couple of practices, the Blues created numerous scoring chances in the third period and finished the game strong. The game saw the Blues come together as a unit, playing a team game under difficult circumstances and persevering through a tumultuous second period. The effort will undoubtedly be re-warded later in the season, as the Blues are beginning to show early signs of a dangerous team that improves exponentially every time it takes the ice.