A cacophony of fans wait by St Andrews Music Hall, ready to descend on Dundee by the coachload. The perpetual drizzle makes their jazzy attire all-the-more-so; the Canadian shirts on display a testament to the transatlantic. And a testament, more importantly, to the late Jonny Wookey – revered member of the Typhoons, from Toronto, Canada, to whom the match is both memorial and celebration. As the coaches set off full-to-bursting, the incessant chanting conveys as much. That the fixture is also a varsity game, versus the Edinburgh Eagles, only ferments the fervour.
Coach alighted and ears ringing, the glassy grandeur of the Dundee Ice Arena heaves into view. Yet past the entrance, the temperature nosedives. Suddenly, the £10 woolly hats for sale by the turnstiles don’t seem so pricey. The partisan PA keeps things heated, however, a fever-pitch firebrand for the coldest of contests. It’s as if the en-route journey through the gentle Fife farmscape was all a marketing ploy, just to make the occasion seem even more intense. An occasion which, come the opening face-off, is everything but gentle.
To describe the opening exchanges as ‘wild’ would be an understatement. ‘Visceral’ might just about do the job. Within twenty seconds, an Eagle is lurched skyward, helmet crunching ice upon descent. The puck zips and dips and flips, eluding real control as flailing sticks abound. All over the pitch, collisions are frequent and brutal.
This opening shock soon turns to awe, however, as Typhoons defenseman Nick Hauger’s near pitch-length slalom tees up forward Joe August to score. The ensuing blast of synthpop seems to rouse Typhoons yet further, forcing the Eagles goaltender into a string of brave saves (one of which, a one-handed catch, even earns praise from the PA). Though a fizzing Eagles counter sees Typhoons’ left post clipped, forward Chase McCarthy adds a second after twelve minutes, the puck belted past the ‘tender with bravura.
The second period commences in an equally whirlwind manner, Typhoons mounting a veritable coup d’état on the Eagles goal. Three minutes in, a suave exchange of passes finds August, who impudently flicks the puck into the far corner for his second, and Typhoons’ third. Eagles, becoming fraught, respond with abrasion: a Typhoons player is seemingly pinned against the hoardings by the neck. McCarthy, riled, is ejected briefly; temperatures freezing and tempers flaring. Yet despite the fighting, Typhoons add a fourth goal, Mack Irwin staying calm amid the carnage. With one period left, the next goal is critical.
It is Eagles who score it. A defensive slip sees a goal pegged back, and the henceforth cocksure chanting begins to quaver slightly. Five minutes later, a crude deflection finds an Eagles forward, who clatters the puck home with abandon for 4-2. His gleeful roar hangs in the air like a warhorn, the fans’ silence only augmenting it. Suddenly, as if emerging from a long, deep freeze, the contest bursts into life.
Where Eagles dare, Typhoons dally. From all conceivable angles, raid after raid is launched on Typhoons’ territory. Idiosyncratic dribbles offset searing shots; every Eagle oozes conviction. Ten minutes remaining, a huge Eagles defenseman bursts forward and shoots, like a giant squid emerging from deep to lash out an angry tentacle. Duly, the lash finds its target for 4-3.
Typhoons rally, as forwards turn makeshift defensemen. With one minute left, the crowd braying and praying, a foul is called near Typhoons’ goal. The shot, rising like a poisoned arrow, is somehow blocked. The beleaguered Eagles, consumed by desperation, foul McCarthy. Someone in the crowd shouts out ‘win it for Wookey’. Ten eternal seconds later, Typhoons triumph.