February 26, 2013, by Malvika Johal

The Face Off – Vying for the most prestigious trophy of the Varsity 2013 Series

By Rachel Third 

On tiptoes, peeking over a sea of giant colored foam fingers to take in the staggering view of the stadium from the top tier of the National Ice Arena, I was one of a 7,000 strong crowd who turned out to chant for the two teams contesting for the 2013 Nottingham Varsity Ice Hockey trophy. I could well believe the hype that this annual match between our very own University of Nottingham and rivals Nottingham Trent University is the most attended university ice hockey match outside of North America – the place was absolutely heaving.

As we prepared for the ‘faceoff’ between the teams which would begin the match, the fans were enjoying an enthusiastic faceoff of their own. ‘University of’ students sat facing the Trent students and each side were determined to chant louder than the other, tapping into years of historic rivalry based primarily on the fact that Trent is a former Polytechnic. Students on both sides were on good form, readily embracing their respective stereotypes; songs based around “I’d rather be a Poly than a Toff” were belted out from Trent, while the ‘University of’ chanted the mature response, “Your dad works for my dad.” Unity was achieved briefly as the stadium stood to sing the national anthem (yes, we just about knew the words), and then it was time for the most important faceoff… on ice.

Very shortly after the whistle blew, UoN took an early 3-0 lead. This being the first ice hockey match I’d ever seen (which was probably true of most of the audience) I had to quickly get to grips with the rules, of which there are notoriously very few! Players can hit the puck with their sticks, hands and feet, and traditionally can even hit other players as long as helmets and gloves come off first. They wear speed skates (speed being the operative word) and with all the padding they’re wrapped up in it’s a wonder they can move as fast as they do. The game is split into three 20-minute periods and we were thoroughly entertained by the two cheerleading teams during intervals and whenever the clock stopped.

Trent gained one goal back in the first period, however it was the two astoundingly quick goals in the final 20 minutes which looked to take the match to extra time. A glorious last minute goal (almost literally, with one minute and twenty seconds left on the clock) finally ensured UoN a 4-3 win.

Happily this means we are currently in the lead for this year’s much coveted Varsity trophy, having also won the women’s and men’s basketball last week. The 2013 Nottingham varsity series is raising money for Headway; a local charity branch which provides a diverse range of social, leisure and educational activities. The outreach service offers practical support to families, supporting people to come to terms with the change in lifestyle following brain injury, and Varsity 2013 is set to raise over £20,000 for this good cause.

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