By Will Carrol
Cambridge, July 2016 - The 2015-2016 season was certainly one to remember for the Cambridge Light Blues. A Division 1 South title, a national championship against Nottingham, 2 Varsity matches, and 5 total victories (in 5 occasions) against their Oxford Rivals. With only 9 returning players, the core was there and a number of fresh additions helped build the depth and skill that took them to new heights. One key addition was coach Joseph Marshall. Joseph’s understanding of the game, calm demeanour and positive attitude helped keep the team disciplined during games and focused during practice sessions.
The season started with back to back matches against the Oxford University Blues and the Oxford Blues. Cambridge came out of the gate strong notching two early wins in two games that were close, hard-nosed affairs. The Light blues then dropped points in a tie to UCL, but ultimately ended the first half of the season undefeated and on top of the league table. After the Christmas break, a successful training camp and tournament victory in Zuoz, Switzerland, the Light Blues returned to England to focus on league play.
The second half of the season was a gauntlet with 4 of 5 games to be played on the road that would define whether the hot start from the first half would be anything more than a flash in the pan. After an opening draw in London against the Dragons, the Light blues headed to Oxford for the first time of the season and beat the Oxford University Blues in a key game that put them in the driver’s seat for the division title. But UCL proved to be a team Cambridge couldn’t crack, and the next week’s loss led to two high leverage games to close out the year. The Blues took on the London Dragons in Peterborough and played a complete game, winning 7-2 and setting up a final game in Oxford for the division title. An emotional, come from behind victory in that game meant the blues went 3-1-1 down the stretch, defeating the Oxford Blues to win the Patton Cup, the division title, and secured one more game against Nottingham to play for a national title.
With league play wrapped up, the Light Blues spent the next two weekends in Sheffield. One to play against the Nottingham Mavericks in the Tier 1 National title game and one to participate in the national tournament. The Tier One National Championship game saw Cambridge face off against the winners of the Northern Division, the Nottingham Mavericks. The Light Blues contained the nation’s leading offense and came from behind to win the game and the title 5-4, for the first time in team history. The next weekend, the Light Blues walked through the tournament group group play, but came up just short of a title, losing in a shootout to Southampton in the semifinals. The one remaining game on the schedule was a trip to Oxford to compete in the Varsity match with Blues at stake and only eligible students available to play. The Blues dispatched their rivals 3-1 to cap off the season and spark celebration throughout Cambridge.
There were two keys that made this year so successful:
League Leading Defense
The foundation of the Cambridge Light Blues success was the defensive core. The Light Blues led the nation in goals allowed, only gave up 4 goals twice all year, otherwise keeping every opponent below 3 goals. This strength started from the growth of netminder Daniel Orvomaa dutifully stepping into the starting role this year. Daniel was a key presence for the Light Blues, communicating well with the defense and making key stops to keep them in games. In front of him, the defense corps of Alan Bauer, Cody Hanson, Aleksi Tukiainen, and Declan O’Briain led by captain Spencer Brennan were stalwarts all year. They brought a physical brand of defense and helped Cambridge build from the back, starting the break and getting the offense rolling forward.
The other key aspect of this Cambridge team was the depth of the team. This was a team that could roll lines and play in a number of different ways depending on the situation. The top 6 lines made up of Henry Aspegren, Mark Wallace, Scott Dimond, Vaclav Berenek, and captains Oscar Wilsby and Julien Gagnon provided two legitimate top lines that could compete with anyone in the league. The bottom 6 forwards made up of Cosmin Davidescu, Michal Barabas, Kumaran Nathan, James Requiema, Steven Tuffner and Will Carroll gave two lock down defensive lines that played tough physically and would grind out scoring chances as well. At the end of the season, Cambridge only had one player in the top 10 of any offensive statistic, but a number of them in the middle of the pack making it hard for defenses to key in on one player, because different people would step up every night
With the book closed on the 2015-2016 season, the team would like to send a thank you to the readers and fans of the club for your support over the year. It has been the most successful year in Cambridge Ice Hockey’s 131-year history and we couldn’t have been there without you. We look forward to next year and what that season may bring, but until then, let’s take a look and enjoy some of the hardware we’ve earned.