March 27, 2015, by Lee Chrimes
BUCS Big Wednesday 2015: UoN Men’s Hockey’s first BUCS gold for 50 years
In one of our most highly anticipated finals of the season, University of Nottingham Men’s Hockey 1st team took on Loughborough University Men’s Hockey 1st away at Loughborough in front of over 1,000 spectators, half of which we are proud to say were UoN supporters, the self-proclaimed ‘Green tidal wave’ ready to cheer us to victory.
The last time Men’s Hockey won the BUCS gold was exactly 50 years ago, so expectations were high going into the match. The sound of the Loughborough drum was drowned out by hundreds of vuvuzelas, singing crowds and cheers of support whilst the two teams walked out onto the pitch to start one of the biggest games of their university sporting careers. Both sides were equally talented and well coached, so to win Nottingham had to be the hardest-working team on the field.
Prior to the fixture, captain Andy Dalman summed up the gravity of the game: “I can’t begin to describe how much this means to us. Every fitness test and off-season sacrifice over the last three years has been in anticipation of this game, every late night video session and every early morning run. From the icy cold mid-season break to the bittersweet heat of the summer league, everything boils down to these 70 minutes of hockey.”
The first 10 minutes of the game were fairly evenly matched, with both teams maintaining good possession and struggling to carve out clear cut chances.
Our first goal came from a fantastic drag flick on a short corner scored by our number 4, Ben James, firing low to the goalkeeper’s right and taking Nottingham into a 1-0 lead at half time.
A quote from Piers Denning, Men’s Hockey president, reflected the lead we had: “They have the home advantage so it’s important we get as many and as noisy a turnout as possible.”
The second half continued in a similar fashion with Nottingham edging the possession but failing to extend their lead. Brave defending from Jonny Ruiz prevented a Loughborough short corner from being converted, but five minutes later Loughborough made no mistake from their penalty corner, and set up a tense final few minutes of the match.
With six minutes to go UoN had another short, and it took a great sliding save from the Loughborough goalkeeper to keep the scores level and take the match to penalty flicks.
Penalties are a time for heroes, and whilst Olympian Harry Martin, American international Mo Ghandi and Ben James all scored for Nottingham, it was goalkeeper Dan Darby who has strongest claim to this title after saving three of the five Loughborough penalties, sending the Nottingham crowd into delirium and bringing the national title back to UoN after a half century wait.
You can relive the excitement through the BUCS website, who have both picture galleries from the day’s events and a live feed of results that charts our teams’ progress to victory. You can also follow University of Nottingham Men’s Hockey on Twitter for more photos and news from the finals.