At 7:01 on Saturday night, Oregon and Washington club hockey took the ice for the fourth game of the much anticipated I-5 Cup, the self-titled four-game series between the rival teams. The series was already decided — Washington won 8-6 to clinch the Cup on Friday — but bad blood still flowed through each side’s veins.
The night before, Washington scored an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left to put the score out of reach. But in the midst of its celebration, a bench clearing brawl, featuring a goalie fight at center ice, broke out and eight players — four from each team — were suspended for the next game.
Senior captain Chris Campbell said he knew a fight would break out, but was surprised it came during the first game.
“I don’t really think that was the time,” Campbell said. “At the end of the day we still had another game to play that counted. We can’t be missing players.”
The series began on Oct. 15 in Seattle, where the Ducks were playing extremely undermanned. They lost 13-6 in the opener, but the second game proved more evenly matched. Down 1-0, senior Joe Hoover found the back of the net with 0.8 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
“That whole sequence—you couldn’t write a script that good,” play-by-play announcer Isaac Rosenthall said. “That was one of those things you see happen where you weren’t quite sure if it was real.
“Forgetting about just hockey or just the I-5 cup, that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen, period.”
Neither team scored in overtime, so the Ducks figured the game would go to a shootout. But Washington turned down the shootout, and the game ended anticlimactically in a 1-1 tie.
The Ducks weren’t happy; they felt they had been cheated out of an opportunity for a big win. On Saturday, several Washington players said it was the referee’s’ decision not to go to a shootout, not theirs. But members of the Oregon team and staff disagreed, and the bad blood carried over into the next two games.
The final score of Saturday’s game, 11-5, did not do justice to how close the game was. The Ducks were down four players, including their starting goalie and one of their best offensive threats.The score was 4-4 heading into the third period, but the Ducks were simply exhausted, not to mention frustrated. Twice in the final frame, the referees had to separate players.
“These are, of course, our big rivals,” head coach Bill Leahy said. “We don’t like anything about UW. It’s frustrating to come out with two losses, especially at home and especially with the crowd we had.”
The rivalry did not end inside the rink. After the brawl on Friday, a Washington parent chastised the broadcasting team as “classless.” After the game on Saturday, an Oregon fan stole a Washington player’s stick and a confrontation ensued.
Oregon will try to wrap up its season with more discipline in its final two-game series against Cal next weekend at Lane County Ice Rink.
“A lot of it comes down to discipline and staying out of the penalty box,” Leahy said. “We can’t win when we’re a man short—we’re not gonna score any goals and that’s really what hurt us. We just need a lot more practice on special teams.”
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @g_amorris