U Sports WHKY: Crazy Crowd Pushes the Varsity Blues Past York in McCaw Cup Final

Toronto, ON- What a night. The fans were loud, the hockey was fast and in the end, the Toronto Varsity Blues were crowned 2020 OUA women’s hockey champions as they hoisted the McCaw Cup on their home ice.  

The 2020 final of the McCaw Cup playoffs presented a crowd, which in both numbers and loudness is unparalleled anywhere in the OUA. Every time a player got the puck, a roar of fans reverberated through the hallowed halls of Varsity Arena. It was the roar that helped powered both of the teams through a gruelling final game.

The atmosphere inside Varsity Arena was unbelievable (Spencer Packalen/49 Sport)

After the game, Toronto Varsity Blues head coach Vicki Sunohara spoke about the atmosphere and said “ Wow. that was unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like that, it was such a great  experience,” before continuing on to say how even the York fans helped push her team to victory. 

The York fans she speaks about were the happier ones to start the night, as it was their Lions that got the first goal. 

Courtney Gardiner got the puck on her stick in the neutral zone and rushed the goal while simultaneously muscling off the force of Toronto’s Jana Headrick before she flicked the puck over the pad of Fryer. The goal was a sight to see, but the rumbling guffaw from the Lions fans, which climaxed as the puck crossed the line was an astounding sound to hear.

Five minutes after the opening goal, the home Varsity Blues brought the game back to even when Jesicca Robichaud’s shot found the net. While the sounds of the Lions were one thing, their decibels were decisively matched by the home fans. 

Following a fiery first, there was little offensive action in the second. The only big chance came in the first minute when Toronto forward Taylor Trussler had a breakaway, but another solid stop from York netminder Serena Vilde made sure that didn’t matter. 

After forty minutes of hard-fought hockey, the score remained one apiece.

The second period’s stingy defence bled its way into the third. However, it took a mere 55 seconds for the Varsity Blues to put a different mood on the game. Captain Stephanie Ayres flicked in a close chance past Vilde and gave the home side a crucial go-ahead goal in the third frame. That goal proved to be historic. 

The Varsity Blues celebrate their second goal of the night (Spencer Packalen/49 Sport)

As the game went on, the chances and hits continued to flow like a waterfall. York thought they had tied it up, however, the referees called the goal off. As the clock ticked down, the puck slid into the York net once again. 

3-1 Varsity Blues.

The buzzer went and for the first time since 2003, the McCaw Cup returned to  Varsity Arena and the grips of the University of Toronto. 

The crowd erupted in unison, as the players rushed on the ice tho congratulate their goaltender. It’s always a crazy moment when you see the emotions of a final. 

On one side, you have the losing team,  putting in every effort to hold back tears; they know they were so close.  It’s one of the saddest points of their year. 

York Lions Tayler Murphy holds back tears after the Lions loss (Spencer Packalen/49 Sport)

Then you have the others, who are having the time of their life. For some, they have reached the pinnacle of their sporting career. Smiles beam off their faces almost as brightly as the trophy they won. The fact that both of these experiences can happen within meters of each other is what makes sport so magical. 

Toronto Varsity Blues captain Stephanie Ayres shakes hands with the York Lions (Benjamin Steiner/49 Sport)

For Vicky Sunhohara, she has experienced winning before. She won an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, but when asked what meant more, she couldn’t decide. “This was my ninth season, these are my girls, so this is pretty special,” said Sunohara. Although she couldn’t pick one, it’s fair to say she was ecstatic for both as she beamed of happiness while answering the questions. 

Vicky Sunohara gets a shower (of Gatorade) before her players do (Benjamin Steiner/49 Sport)

While victory feels good for Toronto, and the loss stings for York, both teams will have to regroup and refocus before next week, when they take on the rest of the country in their search for the University Cup

Although neither team will have their rambunctious fans supporting them in similar numbers while in Charlottetown, the fact that the crowd was so crazy on Friday will add a level of motivation that may not have been there for both sides. 

The York Lions, led by Gardiner will have to regroup ahead of nationals (Spencer Packalen/49 Sport)

The national tournament will be viewable for all of the fans in attendance as the CBC will be airing it coast to coast to coast across Canada on CBCsports.ca

Cover Photo: Benjamin Steiner/49 Sport

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