TORONTO - Sunday afternoon at Downsview Park wasn’t really about the final score for Filip Prostran, head coach of the Ryerson Rams men’s soccer team. When his squad took on the Carleton Ravens in the regular season finale for both squads, there wasn’t truly much on the line.
The Rams had already clinched the OUA East division and the first round playoff bye that comes with it while a tough 1-0 loss to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Saturday afternoon guaranteed the Ravens a third place finish in the division. As a result, Prostran played things safe and dug deep into his bench. In the end, the two sides played to a 2-2 draw.
Prostran sat the five players on his roster that came into the game with two yellow cards to their name (goalkeeper Praveen Ahilan, fullbacks Kyle Stewart and Robert Boskovic, winger Raheem Rose and striker Jamie Baker). Picking up a third card at some point during the contest would have made them ineligible for Ryerson’s OUA quarterfinal match next weekend. On top of that, the vast majority of the squad’s starters were also given the day off.
“It’s important for them to just have a relaxing day,” said Prostran following the game about his decision. “I didn’t want to risk anyone and I’m the dumb coach if anyone gets injured, right?”
The situation presented a fantastic opportunity for some of the team’s younger players to get a bit of OUA experience and show the Rams’ coaching staff what they’re capable of.
“It’s a great game to see some of the guys that are deeper in the pack or deeper on the roster (and) how much value they can add to us in the playoffs,” said Prostran. “Today really was about assessing the guys, getting our final answers… The result is irrelevant. Right now I’ve got my answers for playoffs. I know (how deep) I can go into my team on the bench, who I can go to in what situations.”
A combined eight freshmen and sophomores started the game, but it was a couple of veterans that linked up to get Ryerson on the board early. Following a nice build up into the Ravens’ zone in the 9th minute, Rams’ midfielder Misel Klisara (Mississauga, Ont.) passed the ball forward to striker Nick Lambis (Pickering, Ont.) who had his back to the net. In one swift motion from 15 yards out, the fourth-year neatly flicked the ball over the Ravens’ goalkeeper Jared Maloney. It slowly rolled between the pipes to make it 1-0.
Ten minutes later, Carleton evened things back up. After the Ravens sent the ball into the 18-yard box on a free kick, Ryerson’s goalkeeper Ali Ghazanfari (Stouffville, Ont.) confidently punched the ball away before colliding with Ravens’ forward Alex Decouvrier. That incident gave Carleton’s Julian Piccioli all of the time he needed to deposit the ball into the empty net and make it 1-1.
Before the end of the opening half, Ryerson’s Arya Hemati (Vaughan, Ont.) and Venizelos Koutsoulianos (Richmond Hill, Ont.) both had shots from distance that just barely sailed over the crossbar.
The Rams continued to buzz in the second half. Lambis regained Ryerson’s lead when he fired a shot past Maloney during a scramble at the top of the 18-yard box in the 77th minute. His second of the game and tenth of the season made it 2-1 at the time.
“Nick is a guy that we’ve relied on,” said Prostran. “We know he can do his thing. He’s proven that year after year... We can always rely on Nick in several different positions so I’m not worried about him. But, he came on and did his thing as usual.”
The Ravens responded once again though. In the 87th minute, a Carleton shot from distance struck Rams’ fullback Ahmed Zabian (San Andres, Colombia) in the arm while he was standing in the box. Whether or not the play truly was a handball didn’t matter because based on the referee’s vantage point, he awarded the Ravens a penalty kick. Carleton’s Gordon Goodkey made no mistake and sent both sides home with another point to add to their season’s total.
Ghazanfari finished the game with five saves while Maloney stopped four of Ryerson’s six shots on goal.
The Rams wrap up the year with a record of 14-1-1 for 43 points while the Ravens complete the 2016-17 season at 10-2-4. Carleton will host the sixth place Trent Excalibur (4-8-4) in the first round of the OUA East playoffs. In the other matchup, the fourth place Queen’s Gaels (7-5-4) will host the fifth place Laurentian Voyageurs (6-8-2). Both games will be on Wednesday.
Like Ryerson, the second place Varsity Blues (12-2-2) also earned themselves a first round bye.
Ryerson will play the lowest remaining seed after that opening round of postseason action at home on Sunday, October 30th. Game time is 6:00 p.m. at Downsview Park.
NOTES: Before kick-off, graduating senior players Luka Lee (Toronto) and Jamie Baker (Aurora, Ont.) were honoured for their time with the program… Lambis’ ten goals this season put him second on the team in that category. Baker finished atop the list and tied for third in the OUA with 11 in only 12 games… Rams’ netminder Praveen Ahilan (Unionville, Ont.) completed the campaign with the best save percentage (.875) and goals against average (0.45) in the province… The 14 victories and 43 points the Rams earned in 2016-17 are the most collected in a single season in program history.