A brief comparison between American and British universities throws up a sharp difference in sports, especially the interaction between the teams and the student body. Where in the States there are massive stadiums just for the college football team, here in the U.K. events that see a real engagement from students are few and far between. However, the Jonny Wookey memorial game on Tuesday 10th April was one of those events that saw a huge turnout to support the St Andrews Typhoons take on the Edinburgh Eagles in Dundee. The dreich weather, fitting for the venue, did not put people off travelling by the bus load and were greeted by flashing lights and music as the two teams skated on. The St Andrean dominance in the crowd was immediately evident both by the boos that greeted Edinburgh, and possibly the worst rendition of the national anthem in history.
The Typhoons came into the game in good spirits. As part of the British Universities Ice Hockey Association, they had been playing all season against teams from across the country. In Division 1 North, they came top of the table winning all but one of their eight games. Despite Edinburgh coming second in that league, they had beaten their opponents twice already before this evening: a 6-4 home win and a 3-2 away win last month.
After the first Face Off, the Typhoons dominated a scrappy opening five minutes, having a big early chance from a cross. Yet in the eight-minute, #81 Chase McCarthy put the Saints 1-0 up, scoring a rebound from a tight angle. Several powerplays followed for both teams but came to nothing. In the final five minutes the period sprang to life. After a chance for St Andrews on the break, ‘keeper Spencer Caminsky made a great save, only to see some complacent defending lead to an Eagles equaliser. The final minute saw both teams miss big chances to take a lead into the break. So far, the Saints were clearly on top and were producing a solid team performance. Highly offensive-minded, Spencer “Mr Canada himself” Caminsky in net was impressing early on.
The second period started in an Edinburgh powerplay, but it was the Typhoons who had the first real chance, but confidence in front of goal was lacking in a one vs one opportunity. Caminsky was called into action again in the 3rd minute with a smart double stop. Then suddenly, Edinburgh scored two goals in two minutes. The first came after a bit of a scramble, while the second was a smart finish in the top left after squeezing out of a nearly impossible spot surrounded by Typhoons. After a series of powerplays, the Saints tried to get back into the game with #59 Spencer Albert looking to pull the strings in the middle of the rink. However, against the run of play the Eagles got a 4th in the tenth minute of the period, leading to a Saints timeout. Things were threatening boil over for St Andrews. Scuffles were close to breaking out but were quashed by the referees, much to the crowd’s dismay. The Typhoons then managed to survive an Edinburgh powerplay with two men out, with Caminsky once again the hero. After this period of intense pressure, a break through the centre saw the Saints pull a goal back to 2-4. Throughout the period St Andrews had maintained their attacking style, but Edinburgh were countering accordingly. They were doing a lot of the hard work but struggling to be clinical around the net.
With the score standing at 2-4, the Saints got the early goal they needed, with McCarthy grabbing another by slotting the puck through the keeper’s legs. However, the Eagles immediately restored their two-goal advantage after a clever move saw the puck squared, giving the keeper no chance. It was a goal reminiscent of some of the chances the Typhoons should have taken earlier on in the game. In the 5th minute of the final period, #10 finished off a sweeping move, only to be sent immediately off for a two-minute penalty. The Saints were now really putting their bodies on the line, throwing themselves in front of shots and doing everything they could to tie the game up. Caminsky made yet another stunning save, getting down low to block the puck after two Eagles players were through on goal unchallenged. St Andrews looked as if they were through on goal, only to slip on the ice before Edinburgh went down the other end and made it 4-6. For the rest of the game, Edinburgh’s clinical shooting ability and strong skating was evident, with their #19 reading the game well in defence. A slick pass from #96 saw the leads stretch to three. In the final minute, the Eagles were awarded a penalty which they subsequently scored to make the final score 4-8 to the visitors. The MVP for St Andrews went to #81 Chase McCarthy, although special mention must go to keeper Spencer Caminsky for keeping his team in the match and producing some saves that demonstrated he was a class above the opposition.
While the score-line may not have been what the crowd or players were wanting, a fantastic support, buoyed by enthusiastic announcers, made the event a true spectacle that made the game extremely tense and fast-paced. It is important to remember that the game is played to honour the life and memory of former player and founder of the club Jonny Wookey, who tragically lost his life at the age of 22. Hopefully the game was played with a spirit and enthusiasm would have made him proud of what he started.