Imperial Devils win fourth Ice Varsity match in a row by overcoming UCL Yetis again

By Samuel Draper
March 10 2020, 15.00

Imperial Devils overcame the UCL Yetis 5-2 to win their fourth consecutive London Ice Varsity at Streatham Ice Arena on Friday.

Yuriy Shulzhenko’s brace as well as additional goals from Timur Khalikov, Amir Sadikov and Brett Bouthillier helped seal the Devils’ win in front of boisterous support from students and alumni, whilst the Yetis found the scoresheet through Mac Van Dam and Raphael Girard.

The rivalry was a close encounter until the closing stages of the third period, and the Yetis, in Tier 2 of the British University Ice Hockey Association league, did not appear out of their league despite facing opposition in the system’s top-tier.

Harry Angell, Devils’ President and player, said: “It was a close game, we tried to keep it exciting for the audience.

“I think it was good this year, some fights, some good goals.”

The match lived up to the occasion, with both universities out in full support of their players as both sides brought along support they don’t usually receive during the rest of their year.

Angell said: “It’s great when you have people cheering for you. It’s different from a regular game during the season. It’s good to get some experience of that, as outside of uni, not many of us are going to go pro.

“As important as your on-ice performance is your off-ice hype men in the crowd. I think we did okay on the hype, but UCL had a microphone.”

Devils’ Angell is studying mechanical engineering, and currently seeking a summer internship.

Angell said: “You’d be surprised at the crossover. Sports science has materials, they spend tonnes of money on it.

“Some of the research I was doing earlier this year was on ice skate design and the ‘trip’-ology of skates on ice.”

Match action as the Devils overpowered the Yetis in Streatham

The London Ice Varsity was founded in 2013, and the Imperial side have an overall winning record against their rivals.

They started brightly this time too, taking a two-goal lead in the opening 12 minutes through Shulzhenko’s strikes.

The first took advantage of a powerplay, whilst the second saw the Kiev-born No. 77 making the most of a beautiful opportunity to put the Devils comfortably ahead.

In the second period, the Yetis came out a different side, with Van Dam’s early goal quieting the crowd’s ‘Let’s go Devils’ chant.  

The UCL audience were also vocal with their support, and on the ice, the team will rue not doing more with the chances they carved out.

Devils’ manager Khalikov then scored against the run of play to extend his team’s lead.

However, the Yetis did not let their heads drop and quickly retaliated through Girard to make it 3-2 with twenty minutes to play.

The third period came with more opportunities for the Yetis, but the Devils defence fended them off time and time again.

With Devils’ defender Gus Zimmerman in the box for a 2-minute hooking penalty, the Yetis would have sensed their opportunity to level the scores.

Instead, assistant captain Sadikov stepped forward from the defence to score a shorthanded goal which gave the Devils a two-goal cushion, effectively killing the game.

With Yetis desperate to fight back, they were possibly a little foolhardy to pull their netminder Tory Yoon, and were duly punished as European-Canadian Bouthillier dispatched the puck into the empty net.

UCL Yetis pose for a team photo after their match

It was the only time that the tier-2 Yetis appeared to be out of the Devils’ league.

Despite the late capitulation, Yetis captain Axel Rönnholm enjoyed the experience.

Rönnholm said: “It’s nice to play in front of the crowd, as we normally don’t get one.

“It makes all the difference. You get more energy. It was great fun.

“The score doesn’t really reflect it, but I thought we could have won it, especially in the second period.

“We missed too many chances. Overall it was a good showing, we should have just scored.”

The Yetis travelled to Birmingham for a league match the day after the derby, and then the second-year defender will turn back to his course studying history, politics and economics.

Rönnholm admits there’s little crossover between ice hockey and the subjects he’s researching, but may focus future studies on the sport’s Soviet past.

Rönnholm said: “Hockey history is interesting.”

Based on the support, the goals and yes, the fights, the current state of hockey is just as attractive too.  

Featured image photo credit: Josh Moody

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