It wasn’t surprising to see the Varisty Arena half-full on this Saturday night. With the Maple Leafs taking on longtime rivals Boston at home less than 20 minutes away, while Toronto FC was battling soccer icon Wayne Rooney’s DC United simultaneously, USports hockey wasn’t the biggest draw in Hogtown on this evening.
While both games served up entertaining storylines, with the TFC game noticeably living up to the hype, the cities most exciting game of the evening may have lied just north at the Varsity Arena, where rivals Ryerson and University of Toronto battled. In a contest between neighbouring rivals, both teams came out and entertained the faithful at Varsity Arena, trading blows in a high-scoring affair.
USports Hockey, Canada’s answer to the famed NCAA division 1 hockey circuit that concludes each year with their well-known ‘Frozen Four’, has continued to grow in each passing year. With a selection of players that includes former Canadian Hockey League junior stars, as USports offers up scholarship options for those athletes, they provide a good level of hockey combined with university pride.
On this night in Toronto, Ryerson and U of T put up a great advert for the league, as they would combine for 11 goals in a 6-5 Blues victory. This game had it all, as water bottles got popped, feelings got hurt and both team’s goalies had nights they wouldn’t soon remember fondly.
David Thomson got things going for U of T 3 minutes into the game, sliding a nice pass through the five-hole of Ryerson goaltender Troy Timpano, setting the tone for the evening with his early goal.
The rest of the first period alone had a Marcus Hinds goal for the Rams, an Evan MacEachern water-bottle popping one-timer for the Blues and a Matt Santos tally to equalize for the visiting Ryerson team, giving fans little time to breathe heading into the intermission.
It was a good period of hockey, and it only continued into the second, as both teams combined for 3 more goals. With the goaltenders getting peppered with shots, including a high amount of Blues breakaways, the game was played at the breakneck pace people have come to expect in USports.
As both teams combined for 3 more in the final stanza, including a late Santos equalizing goal off a rebound to silence the home U of T crowd, it was fitting that the game was sent to 3v3 overtime, giving a chance for the skill on both sides to shine.
And shine did they ever do. With end-to-end attacks, attacks that forced some acrobatic saves from both sets of goaltenders, fans weren’t left much time to breathe in the extra frame of hockey. It was almost fitting when the Blues ended the game, sending the crowd back into a frenzy, thanks to a creative blind back pass on a 2 on 1 that sent Nathan Hudgin in all alone against Timpano. With just the Ryerson goalie to beat, he reached into his bag of tricks, going from his forehand to his backhand to roof the puck and put an exclamation point on a good night of hockey.
In an ancient arena in Toronto, it was a good chance to witness some high-calibre play, and the crosstown rivals did not disappoint. Heading into the rest of a season that promises to be exciting for both sets of players, they set the tone for potential future matchups, be it in the regular season and maybe even beyond.
Cover Photo: Joe Mastromatteo