TORONTO - The Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team put forth an offensively powered third period en route to their fourth consecutive victory with a 5-2 win over the Western Mustangs Thursday night.
Over the course of their four-game win streak, the Rams have found twine 21 times and have outscored their opponent 21-9. An average of 5.25 GPG over the past four can’t possibly be expected every night, but, Rams’ head coach Johnny Duco sure isn’t one to complain about their excessive offensive success.
“I’d like it to (continue), but I know it’s not realistic,” chuckled Duco following the win. “There are of course going to be nights where we’re snake bitten. But what I really like are the five goals against over the last three games…that’s the area of improvement that I like to see.”
The improved defensive play has much to do with the impeccable last line of defense in goaltender Taylor Dupuis and Charlie Graham. Dupuis was solid from start to finish in Thursday’s win and picked up his third victory in a row. With the two goals allowed and the 35 saves, Dupuis improved his save percentage and goals against average to .917% and 2.76.
“I thought early on he was fighting it a little bit but he settled down and gave us a great game…he’s playing better every game,” said Duco on Dupuis’ performance. “We have two goalies that are playing really well right now and it’s a healthy competition that I think we’ll keep rolling with.”
The red-hot Chris Marchese opened up the scoring for the Rams with another breakaway beauty in the first. Marchese received a pass from Alex Leader at full speed and went forehand backhand to beat Mustangs’ starter Luke Perisinni. The goal was Marchese’s third and his fifth point in three games since returning from injury.
The Mustangs evened things at one less than ten minutes later after Trent Ouelette picked up a lucky bounce in front and put it past a sprawling Dupuis for the equalizer.
The even score didn’t stay for long however, after Devon Paliani notched home the "feel good moment" of the game. Paliani, in just his second game since returning from a horrific facial injury, pounced on the loose puck in front and scored his first as a Ram. It was a long road for him to get that moment and what a moment it was.
“It sure felt good. I was a little hesitant to see how I would hold up,” said Paliani following the game. “Getting hit and everything with such a serious injury, I broke so many bones in my face there, so it just felt nice. I feel it has finally gotten everything rolling.”
Trailing 2-1 to start the second, the Mustangs did quick work from behind once again and scored just three minutes into the second frame. Mustangs’ leading scorer, Conner Chartier, picked up his seventh point of the season and his third goal.
Both teams went on to trade a plethora of chances throughout the frame and with the stellar play of Dupuis and Perisinni, it seemed possible that we may have seen the last of the goals in this game.
Rams’ Jamie Lewis pleaded that that was indeed not the case mid-way through the first after releasing a world class shot over the shoulder of Perisinni for the go ahead goal. Lewis came off the boards and curled before snapping home the wrist shot for his sixth goal of the season.
Now late in the third and with the Rams up by three, Lewis decided to once again take control of things offensively. Aaron Armstrong fed a perfect pass to Lewis from the corner and while smothered by Mustangs, Lewis somehow managed to introduce stick to puck for his seventh of the campaign.
The first line in Marchese, Michael Fine and Matt Mistele wrapped up the scoring in the period with one of the most gorgeous tic-tac-toe plays you will see in the OUA. Fine would end up being the last to touch it as his eighth goal of the season put a bow on a 5-2 victory over the Mustangs.
With Austin Kosack rejoining the defensive core for the Rams Thursday, they now appear to be at full capacity in terms of their full potential. A five-game win streak earlier this season and now in the midst of a four-game streak has Duco insisting that this is not the peak but, the ascent to the top of the mountain.
“The sky is the limit for this hockey team. I think we’re loaded with talent, we’re deep and guys are really buying into the system and starting to execute,” said Duco. “We’re starting to hold one another accountable now and we know we got a good thing going. The philosophy from day one is win the day and we want to continue to get better everyday. I’ve been proud of the guys the way they have been able to execute with that.”
The Rams will go for their fifth straight win Friday night at Columbia Ice Field in Waterloo as they take on the Waterloo Warriors for a 7:00 p.m. scheduled puck drop. The game can be streamed live via oua.tv.