Toronto, ON- To say that the atmosphere at game two between the York Lions and Nippising Lakers was not the best U Sports atmosphere I have ever seen, well that would be a complete lie. If somebody took an audio recording of the fans who packed the Canlan Ice Centre on Saturday afternoon and played it along with an NCAA Division 1 football game, you wouldn’t hear a difference- it was that loud. The small arena, capped by a tin roof, amplified the sounds to a level beyond normal imagination. It really was playoff hockey.
A big help to the atmosphere, of course, was the play on the ice. The game began as any playoff game would-physical. However, physicality can sometimes come at the price of penalties and that is exactly what happened in the first period as all four goals that were scored came on power plays.
After the two teams had started to find their rhythm, the chances started to flow and flow fast they did. On just the third shot of the afternoon, Lakers forward Teegan Feltz forced the puck into the York goal to give the visitors a one-goal lead. While one would expect the atmosphere to simmer down following an away goal, it was the exact opposite. The sizeable Nippising contingent celebrates, meanwhile, the Lions fans cheered loudly to push the home side to a comeback.
The loud cheering from the home fans certainly helped as the Lions tied the game up less than a minute later thanks to a power play goal from Erin Locke who drove the puck into the net following a cycled power play from the Lions. Locke’s goal launched a barrage of chances for the Lions who did not take long to add to their initial goal.
Once handed the gift of more power plays, the home side continued to attack as defender Taylor Davidson got a goal for herself and Kara Washer added the third. Washer’s goal was assisted by Locke who had two points in the opening 20 minutes of the game.
Between the fans and the on-ice action, the first period was a spectacle of itself, but the second period made the first look backyard hockey.
The goals did not sow down, nor did the fans. Just as the first period had ended with a flurry of York goals, that is the exact same way that the second began. Cortney Gardner scored on a breakaway within the first two minutes and she was followed up by Tayler Murphy who pushed the puck past the goal line to give the Lions a 5-1 lead.
As they pucks flew into the net, the fans flew into ferocious excitement. There were the York supporters, many of whom athletes themselves, who hit their drums louder as they attempted to drain out the Lakers fans. But when one fights force with force, the likelihood of the atmosphere boiling over happens. Midway through the period, the noise got so loud in the arena that college football was no longer the correct comparable, rather the space shuttle launch could sum up the sound.
While at some points it looked as though the atmosphere could boil over, the passion of the fans only led the teams to more rambunctious hockey. The third saw some of the best personification of dedication to teammates I have ever witnessed as both teams added an additional goal to bring the final score to 6-2.
With the win and now sweep over the Nipissing Lakers, the Lions have punched two tickets. The first is to the OUA final and the second to the U Cup in Charlottetown, PEI. However, before they have a shot at a national championship, they have the McCaw Cup to worry about. In the final, it will either be the Ryerson Rams or the Toronto Varsity Blues who play their decisive third game on Sunday evening.