TORONTO – The Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team will return home Thursday night for the first time in nearly two months in hopes that the familiar setting will transcend the familiar style of play had prior to the recent winter break stoppage. 

The beginning of a New Year is often filled with resolution, new beginnings, and the search and execution for change in hopes that the New Year will bring more success than the last.  For the Rams, however, 2016 couldn’t have ended any better.  Riding an eight-game winning streak into the fresh sunrise of 2017, any focus on a drastic overhaul for the start of the second semester wasn’t necessarily needed.  What needed to occur was the ability to carry on and continue along the same path paved by an impressive first semester.

Instead, the Rams fell in back-to-back games and suffered, what one can say, to be their worst losses of the season in their first weekend back in 2017.  An opening 6-3 loss against an impressive UQTR Patriotes squad was a tough one to swallow, especially after it being nearly two months since the Rams had last tasted defeat.  The Rams then returned the following evening against yet another high-powered offensive unit in the Concordia Stingers and came out on the losing end of a 6-1 romping. 

A span of two games, in which the Rams were outscored 12-4, was a far from ideal way to begin the new semester.  However, the sun has set and risen again, making this week a new day, and yet another opportunity for the Rams to regain their rightful place atop the league.  

The Rams welcome the visiting Brock Badgers to the Mattamy Athletic Centre Thursday night.  The Badgers have had a decent season thus far and sit middle of the pack in the West with a 10-8-1 record for 21 points.  The fifth place Badgers come to Toronto this week in hopes of continuing some recently found success.  

They bested a remarkable Carleton Ravens squad 1-0 prior to the break and kicked off 2017 with back-to-back wins over the Lakehead Thunderwolves last weekend.  Leading goal getters, Adam Lloyd and Sammy Banga, both contributed with a couple two-goal games against the Thunderwolves.  First, it was Lloyd who gathered two first period goals to give the Badgers a 5-2 win last Friday night.  Banga then did the same the following evening with two markers in the second as he helped lift the Badgers to a third straight victory with a 4-2 win. 

Thursday night will mark the second time these two teams have met this year with their first meeting dating all the way back to the third game of the season.  At times, the outcome of the last game played between two teams can forecast what may take place the next time they meet.  In this case, it’s rather hard to predict a repeat of what took place back on October 12th.

The Rams and Badgers found each other trading goals at an unprecedented pace.  The first period saw seven goals between the two with the Badgers up 4-3 after twenty minutes of play.  Three goals were scored in the second with the Rams winning the period to even things at 5-5. And a four-goal third didn’t disappoint either with Aaron Armstrong adding a pair of shorthanded tallies as the Rams scored three compared to the Badgers one to reign victorious in an 8-6 slugfest.

With that barnburner in mind, it’s hard to say what Thursday night will bring.  The Rams still hone one of the more elite offensive units in the OUA and are starving to return to proper form.  The Badgers on the other hand, have proved that they can compete with the OUA’s best after wins against the Ravens and Stingers this season.  It’s hard not to take the Rams in this bout, but expect the Badgers to be in it.  The Rams’ expected net minder, Taylor Dupuis, might just be the difference maker through 60 minutes Thursday.

The Rams will then hop on the bus for London Friday night as they prepare to face the Western Mustangs for the second time this season.

The Rams ousted the Mustangs 5-2 back on November 17th, after scoring three unanswered goals through the final two periods for the victory. 

The Mustangs have struggled throughout this season in what has been a surprising year to date.  They’re often around the top of the division year in and year out, but find themselves hovering around the basement with a 6-10-2 record for 14 points this season. 

A promising 4-3 record through the first month of October had the Mustangs in the mix of things, but after a six-game losing skid and a 2-7 record in the month of November, the Mustangs are in search of some much needed answers in the second semester.

They dropped the first decision of 2017 to the York Lions in what finished in a 4-2 final.  The Mustangs have struggled immensely in the scoring department, which won’t suit them well against the Rams.  Teams have often had to battle fire with fire against the Rams this season and the 43 goals scored by the Mustangs thus far doesn’t quite implement that they will be able to muster such a task.  Their 3.57 GAA is near the bottom of the league as well and may take more of a beating if the Rams manage to find their touch this weekend. 

The back-to-back losses for the Rams last weekend opened the door for the Lions to once again regain first place in the division.  The Rams trail the Lions by just a single point but also hold two games in hand.  There is no need to panic Rams fans, as the Rams can once again retake the lead with a successful weekend, and with a little Lions misfortune, they might just be able to add some cushion in the process. 

The Rams host the Badgers at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Thursday night in a 7:15 p.m. scheduled bout.  They then travel to Thompson Arena in London to face the Western Mustangs at 7:00 p.m. Friday night.  Both games can be streamed live via OUA.tv.