The Oxford University Ice Hockey Club (OUIHC) sent two teams to this year’s annual Division 2 (full body checking) and Division 3 (Non-Checking) National Championships hosted by the British Universities Ice Hockey Association in Sheffield this past weekend.
The men’s second team, the Oxford Vikings, reformed this season after a one-year hiatus. Led by veteran captain Kevin McGlynn, the Vikings struggled throughout the regular season due to a small roster. With only 6 skaters and their goalie, Stefan Mirus hailing from Australia, the Vikings started the weekend off for the University despite their short bench. Calling up Women’s Blues defenseman Lisa Choi, the Vikings put up a fight against the would-be Champions, the Sheffield Bears B. Opening the scoring for the team, Choi put in a rebound from a break by McGlynn to put the Vikes up 1-0 halfway through the game.
Sadly, the Vikes could not hold the lead as their legs grew heavier with every passing minute. Former Bear Dan Boardman showed an incredible feat of fitness, pulling off an ‘ironman’ performance and never leaving the ice due to the lack of substitutes. With only 5 minutes remaining, the Bears managed to put 4 goals passed the Vikes. Outnumbered, the Vikes fell 1-4 to the Bears in a disappointing defeat despite their initial lead.
Reinforcements for the Vikings arrived shortly after lunch and in time for the second game. Joining the roster were Women’s Blues superstar Jenn Lawrence, Emma Walker-Silverman, and Fiona McKendrick. The Vikes faced-off against the Hull Ice Hogs, and later the Northumbria Kings B, falling short in both matches, 0-4 and 0-2 respectively, and putting an end to a disappointing though hard-fought first day.
But the day had only just begun for the Women’s Blues. Returning to the Women’s Blues bench, Lawrence (Captain), Choi (Assistant Captain), McKendrick, and Walker-Silverman would join their team against the Newcastle Wildcats B. Team veteran and former captain, Linda Perkio, strapped on the goalie pads despite having never played in net until only a few months ago. The Blues looked to maintain their success at the National Championships after last year’s historic 3rd place finish, the best result for any women’s team in the BUIHA.
Lawrence would open the scoring with an unassisted goal shortly after the opening face-off. The lead was quickly squandered as the Wildcats managed to answer with 2 goals, putting the Women’s Blues down 2-1. Lawrence would score again off a pass from Choi, tying the game at 2s with plenty of time remaining. Lawrence would complete the hat-trick at the 12-minute mark, living up to her reputation as one of the most skilled players in the league. The Blues would hold on to take the 3-2 win over the Wildcats.
The Women’s Blues took to the ice again, this time against the Sheffield Bears C. They took a heavy defeat to the top-ranked Bears, 5-0. The Blues finished day one with a match against the Southampton Spitfires B, an opponent that the Women had already faced-off against twice in the regular season. The Spitfires would take the game, 2-0, though the Women’s Blues kept the Spitfires to a single goal for most of the game. Despite the loss, the Women’s Blues left the ice with their pride intact – earlier this season, the same Spitfires team pummelled the Blues 17-2.
Day 2 began just before noon for the Vikings, which was fortunate considering the previous nights’ celebrations (Nationals ‘Lashionals’). Again calling up Choi, McKendrick, and Walker-Silverman (Lawrence would take the miss after a night of ardent “team bonding”), the Vikes finished their tournament against the Nottingham Mavericks B. In a close contest, the Mavericks opened the scoring early and led 1-0. With only 5 minutes remaining, Captain McGlynn put one past the goalie on a break from Boardman. The game and tournament would end in disappointment as the Mavs would score again with only 2 minutes remaining. The win for the Mavs would safely advance them to the playoffs, and eventually the final where they would lose 2-4 to the Sheffield Bears B.
The Women returned to the ice to play the Coventry and Warwick Panthers C. Despite predictions of a win, the Blues would only manage to tie the Panthers in yet another disappointing contest. The first conceded goal, and arguably the game, was lost due to the referee interfering with the admirable puck possession held by Lawrence on the penalty-kill. Lawrence would later tie the game with another goal assisted by Choi, followed by a beautiful off-the-post-and-in goal from Walker-Silverman from McKendrick. The Blues could not hold their lead, however, as the Panthers managed to sneak one by Perkio, ending the game 2-2.
A special mention needs to be made for the coaching efforts of Men’s University Blues captain, Tim Donnison, and the season-long coach for the women, Luke Summers. The two took on the difficult task of managing all OUIHC matches over the weekend, and trying to earn results with very few subs to hand.
The Vikings would finish at the bottom of their group despite an incredible effort from their short bench. The team played with grit, heart, and determination though disappointed to come away without a win despite holding a lead during some of the games. The team left Sheffield with their heads held high knowing they proved difficult opponents to the two eventual finalists. The Women finished 4th in their group and did not advance to the playoffs. For many of their players, this tournament would be the last time that the ladies donned their blue and white stripped jerseys to represent the University. For others, this was their first taste of Nationals, leaving the rookies and returners eager to come back for the 2016-2017 season.
The Men’s University Blues head to Sheffield on April 22nd for their go at the National Championships in Division 1 (Checking). They enter the tournament with their eyes on a top finish after placing 2nd in the regular season and a single win behind Varsity rivals the Cambridge Light Blues. The weekend will also be an exciting preview for the Men’s Ice Hockey Varsity. Tickets and details for this highly-anticipated contest are available online or through any current members of the OUIHC. The biggest game of the year will face-off at 5:30 on Sunday May 15th.
The 2016 National Championship roster for the Oxford Vikings consisted of: Kevin McGlynn (C), Dan Lock (A), Dan Boardman (A), Stefan Mirus (G), Harry Geisler, Julian Gregory, Lisa Choi, Emma Walker-Silverman, Fiona McKendrick, and Jennifer Lawrence.
The 2016 National Championship roster for the Oxford Women’s Blues consisted of: Jennifer Lawrence (C), Lisa Choi (A), Rebekka Harding-Smith (A), Linda Perkio (G), Fiona McKendrick, Andrea Francisco, Emma Walker-Silverman, Gabi Smyth, Mimi Pichette, Ellie Park, Celine Collis, Nina Lindsay, and Vanessa Lee.