TORONTO - It doesn’t take a brilliant hockey mind to figure out that the start to the second half for the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team hasn’t been ideal. A couple of regulation losses to the Western Mustangs and Windsor Lancers on the road by a combined score of 9-0 has caused the Rams to slip out of the playoff picture and into 11th in the league.

With a record of 4-1-6-3 for 17 points, they currently sit five points behind the Brock Badgers and Lancers who are tied for seventh place with 22 points.

At this point, Ryerson has two games in hand on Windsor. With a couple of regulation wins under their belt, the Rams could be right back in the thick of things by the end of this week. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you consider their upcoming opposition.

Ryerson’s next two games are against the OUA-leading No. 4 Guelph Gryphons (10-2-2-1) in Guelph on Wednesday night and the third-place Waterloo Warriors (7-2-5-1) at home Saturday afternoon.

The Gryphons have been successful this season because of their strong goaltending and team commitment to the defensive side of the puck. Winners of their last four straight and 10 of their last 11, they’ve only surrendered 19 goals in 15 regular season contests. That 1.25 goals against average (GAA) is second in the country while their .952 save percentage (SV%) is best.

Guelph’s third year starting goaltender Valerie Lamenta is a big reason for these impressive numbers. One season after leading the OUA with a 0.99 GAA and .957 SV%, she sits atop the province in both categories once again. Furthermore, her .951 SV% is also the best in the country.

Lamenta wasn’t between the pipes the last time the Rams and Gryphons clashed though. It was rookie netminder Aurore Beaulieu that made her U Sports debut against Ryerson on October 29th on Mattamy Home Ice. Despite a shaky start where she surrendered a goal off the stick of Kryshanda Green (Brampton, Ont.) only nine seconds in, Beaulieu was able to lead her squad to a 4-2 win.

She’s had one other start since (a 6-0 victory against the Laurier Golden Hawks) while Lamenta has carried the load the rest of the way. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who gets the nod from Guelph’s head coach Rachel Flanagan Wednesday night.

Up front, the Gryphons have received offensive contributions from a number of skaters. Led by fourth year Kelly Gribbons’ six goals and 17 points (good for a tie for third in the OUA with Windsor’s Shawna Lesperance), seven Guelph players have already hit double digits in points.

In their history, the Rams have only defeated the Gryphons once in 14 regular season and playoff meetings. They’ll need their offence to wake up and a solid goaltending performance of their own if they hope to double that total.

Following Wednesday’s action, Ryerson will finally return to Mattamy Home Ice to host the Warriors Saturday afternoon. They have yet to meet Waterloo this season, but the Warriors won both tilts in regulation last season by a combined score of 7-2.

Waterloo may be near the top of the league standings, but they have struggled a bit as of late. They’re 1-0-2-1 in their last four.

Like the Gryphons though, the Warriors have rock solid goaltending. Third year Stephanie Sluys has been a stud. Her 1.54 GAA is tied for second in the province and her .935 SV% is fifth. Freshman Taylor Reimer has also been solid in her four starts this year.

Up front, fourth year power forward Rachel Marriott has been working on yet another solid campaign. She has 15 points (7 goals and 8 assists) in 15 games. The last time the Warriors came to the Mattamy Athletic Centre, she found the back of the net twice and added a helper to lead her side to a convincing 5-1 win.

Puck drop at the Gryphons Centre Wednesday night is scheduled for 7:30 p.m while Saturday’s return to home ice against Waterloo is a 2:15 p.m start. Both games will be broadcasted live on OUA.tv.

Notes: Due to the holiday break, Ryerson hasn’t scored a goal in nearly six weeks. Their current scoreless streak of 126 minutes and 57 seconds dates back to a beautiful backhand by Sarah McGilvray (Stouffville, Ont.) to break a 2-2 third period tie against Laurier on December 1st, 2016…The Rams desperately need to find a way to get the first goal in a game. The last time they opened the scoring was Green’s aforementioned marker against Guelph at the end of October. That was ten games ago… On top of some offence, the Rams could also use some consistency between the pipes. Their starting goaltender has been pulled in each of their last five games.