Loughborough start their defence of their BUCS Hockey Men’s National Championship in the quarter-finals, where they face Nottingham Trent.
Loughborough were crowned 2021/22 champions after getting the better of Nottingham in a tight final which ended 3-2.
However, a disappointing BUCS Hockey 2022/23 league season means they face a tougher journey to the final than the route they successfully went down last season.
How the BUCS Hockey Men’s National Championship works
With the league season coming to an end in mid-February, all focus is now firmly on the National Championships.
There is no trophy or title awarded to the team who tops the Men’s Premier National, with the final standings only serving the purpose of determining the six teams who will compete for the title.
Only the top six teams from the top tier of men’s university hockey qualify for the championship. This season the teams are: Nottingham, Exeter, Birmingham, Durham, Loughborough, and Nottingham Trent.
The standings are also important in determining the draw for the knockout competition. The teams who finish first and second are given a bye from the quarter-final.
This season saw Nottingham top the division with 21 points, with Durham coming in second two points behind. Thus, these two teams automatically qualify for the semi-finals.
Therefore, the other four teams listed have to start their title charge in the quarter-finals. This includes Loughborough, who, as a result of their third-placed finish, go up against sixth-placed Nottingham Trent.
The other quarter-final sees fourth-placed Exeter host fifth-placed Birmingham.
Loughborough enter a stage earlier than last season
If Loughborough want to defend their title, they will have to play a game extra compared to last season’s successful campaign.
In the 2021/22 Men’s Premier National, Loughborough topped the table with an impressive record of seven wins from eight games. Therefore, the side were awarded a bye, meaning they started their campaign in the semi-finals.
However, only five wins in 2022/23 saw the defending champions finish in third.
They face a tough test in the quarter-final, against a Nottingham Trent team who have already beaten them this season.
In something of a shock result, Nottingham Trent came away from Loughborough with all three points following a 3-1 win for the away side.
Loughborough will certainly be out for revenge, as they look to get past the first round of their title defence.
Loughborough’s potential route to the final
If Loughborough get the better of Nottingham Trent, they will set up a repeat of last season’s semi-final.
Second-placed Durham await in the last four, potentially for the second season running. In that stage last season, Loughborough booked their place in the final with a 3-1 victory.
Form favours Loughborough in this fixture, as they inflicted Durham’s only defeat of the season in a repeat of the semi-final scoreline.
On the other side of the draw, top-of-the-table Nottingham will play either Exeter or Birmingham for a place in the final.
Form suggests that Nottingham should ease through to the final. They have already beaten both these sides by an aggregate score of 10-1.
Therefore, if Loughborough are able to get better of both Nottingham Trent and Durham, then Nottingham would most likely await in the final.
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