After a decisive 7-4 win against Ryerson the previous night, the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team fell 4-3 to the number two seeded Western Mustangs on Saturday at Varsity Arena.

With the loss, the Blues drop to 8-11-1, sitting at a lowly ninth in the OUA west division out of 10 teams.

“I thought we played really well,” said head coach Darren Lowe after the game. “We’re playing some good hockey, but against a really good team like them, we have to make sure that we play every shift, every period, of every game, hard.”

The game got off to a quick start when Mustangs forward Julian Cimadamore potted an odd rebound goal that skipped off his stick and floated past the Toronto netminder a little over two minutes in.

Some undisciplined hockey from both teams developed into a penalty-filled affair as each team was handed four minor penalties. Intense hockey was the result, both teams showcasing their offensive and defensive prowess with their special teams. Impressive goaltending from Toronto’s Brett Willows kept the game within reach after a 1-0 first period.

Heading into the second period, fifth-year forward Michael Markovic got Toronto on the board with a seeing-eye goal in the first two minutes. Not long after, a horrific giveaway by a Mustangs defender gave Jeff Brown a clear and open slapshot in the slot, and Paul Van De Velde cleaned about the rebound to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.

Toronto in the second period was clearly the better team on both ends of the rink. They outshot their opponents 11-4, got the better scoring chances, and only allowed Western to shoot from the perimeter. The home team ended with a 2-1 advantage heading into the final frame.

After riding on a high note at the intermission, the Blues quickly fell back down to earth when Western’s Steve Reese and Cody Brown found the back of the net within the first three minutes of the period for a 3-2 score. However, less than a minute later, Blues Dean Klomp evened up the game on a textbook 3-on-2 play with assists from U of T captain Andrew Doyle and Patrick Marsh.

The game was tied 3-3 until the last five minutes of the third period, when a point shot from Western’s defenceman Colin MacDonald deflected off a Toronto body and into the net.

Toronto, with three minutes to go and with the man advantage, came very close to tying up the game when Patrick Marsh’s backhand shot was gloved down by the Western goaltender. The puck fell in the crease and a wild scramble ensued, but incredibly, the puck stayed out to preserve a 4-3 win for the Mustangs.

“They got a couple of fortunate bounces,” says alternate captain Michael Markovic. “We had our opportunities, but just couldn’t capitalize on all of them. The hockey gods weren’t really smiling on us tonight.”

Despite the loss, Markovic is still confident in his team and thinks that some adjustments can lead to success in a tough OUA east division. “In spurts we were the more dominant team, but we had some lapses here and there, and it cost us two goals and a lead,” he says. “Moving forward, we have to play a full 60 minutes if we’re going to be successful.”

The Varsity Blues return to the ice to take on the Lakehead Thunderwolves in Varsity Arena on January 23; the puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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