TORONTO - Friday night’s bout between the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team and the Nipissing Lakers showed shades of what Toronto-Montreal was once like under the old lights of Maple Leaf Gardens. A total of 94 penalty minutes were dispersed to both teams as the Rams prevailed in an aggressive contest to defeat the Lakers 5-1 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
It seemed that after every whistle there was a get together between the two. Tempers flared to such a point in the third that a good old-fashioned line brawl nearly ensued with the Rams’ Michael Fine and Alex Basso caught in the middle of the scrum. Head coach Johnny Duco would have liked to see less than the 43 penalty minutes his team put up, but respects the way his team stuck up for one another in times of turmoil.
“You would like to see less penalties, but at the same time, you like to see the guys sticking up for each other and having each others backs,” said Duco. “We are a band of brothers. We stick with each other through thick and thin and if you come at one of us then you better be ready to face the rest of us.”
The Rams penalty kill has been a cause for concern throughout this season with just 60% effectiveness through their first nine games. A perfect 7/7 against the Lakers Friday night was just what the doctor ordered for the Rams and gives them a boost both statistically and psychologically.
“Guys like Vince Figliomeni, Fabrizio Ricci and Landon Schiller had some really good penalty killing shifts. I thought we were really good on the penalty kill,” said Duco. “It was definitely nice to win the special teams battle for once. It has been a struggle.”
The Rams found the scoreboard early thanks to a Matt Mistele slap shot in front. Mistele hammered home a loose puck in the slot just over a minute into the game for his first CIS goal.
Jamie Lewis, in his first game back from injury, then scored with just over three minutes left in the opening frame. Lewis sharked out a loose puck in the crease and put it past Lakers’ staring net minder, Domenic Graham, and in for his fifth goal in just his sixth game this season. The Rams possessed the puck for the majority of the opening 20 minutes and took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
What was said in the Lakers’ locker room between periods one and two remains unknown, but their impressive start to the period was no secret. Cody Gratton of the Lakers curled back the puck and snapped a well-placed wrist shot under the blocker of Rams’ starter Taylor Dupuis. The goal came just 41 seconds into the frame and brought life back into the legs of what was a rather flat Lakers team in the first.
A string of three straight quality shifts from the Lakers came to a halt however, after Mitch Theoret spoiled the bid for an equalizer with his third of the season. Theoret, alongside Mistele and Chris Marchese, all finished with a goal and an assist Friday night and led the Rams offensively in the victory.
The Rams rounded out the second period scoring with an Alex Leader knuckle shot from the point. With Ricci parked in front of a screened Graham, Leader sent a hopeful point shot that found its way through for the marker. The goal represents Leader’s first in his CIS career and sent the Rams to the third period with a controlling 4-1 lead.
Flashback to last weekends 6-4 win over U of T. The Rams headed into the third period with a 4-1 advantage over their cross-city rivals, but allowed three straight third period goals in what was a sloppy defensive period. The Rams needed two third period goals of their own, which included an empty netter, in order to skate away with the two-goal advantage.
This time around, the Rams appeared to have learned from their past scares. A power play goal thanks to a deflection from Marchese in the slot was the lone goal of the period and did everything but put a bow on the Rams 5-1 victory over the Lakers.
A staggering 76 out of the 94 penalty minutes came in the third period, with a total of four 10-minute misconducts called throughout Friday’s frenzy. Among all the mayhem was an unfazed Dupuis for the Rams, who remained calm and collected en route to a 31 save performance for his second win of the season.
“(Dupuis) bailed us out of quite a few times. I think he played tremendous and gave us a chance to win,” said Duco on the play of his goaltender. “Any time they started to put a little pressure on us, he just shut the door and defused it, and we were able to get a new line out there and take it to them.”
The Rams will look to continue their momentum into tomorrow’s game against the Laurentian Voyageurs as they eye a third straight victory. The game is scheduled for an early afternoon, 2:15 p.m. start and will be a rather quick turnaround for the men in blue and gold.
“We’ll be alright. Were in good shape and these guys coming from major junior are used to playing three games in three days,” said Duco. “Playing two games in two days shouldn’t be much of a problem. Tonight was a good warm up for us and we will be ready to go tomorrow.”
The Rams go for their eighth win of the season Saturday. The game will be streamed live to OUA.tv, courtesy of Rams Live.