TORONTO - A tremendous three goal night from Michael Fine solidified his name in Ryerson’s history books and helped lead the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team to a convincing 6-2 rebound win over the Brock Badgers Thursday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Both Fine and the Rams as a whole came into Thursday night with their fair share of struggles. The Rams looked to reroute after a disastrous weekend in Quebec, where they were outscored 12-4 over two straight losses. It’s fair to say that they accomplished what they sought out to achieve in the 6-2 romping over the Badgers.
Fine, on the other hand, entered Thursday’s bout on the snide having gone four straight games without a point; a feat that hasn’t occurred since his OHL days with the Kingston Frontenacs in the 2010-11 campaign in what was just his second Major Junior season.
The Rams’ captain made sure that the streak never reached a fifth game and did so in dramatic fashion by exploding for his second career hat-trick as a Ram. The pointless streak wasn’t necessarily weighing on his mind coming into Thursday night, but it wasn’t a circumstance that went completely unnoticed either.
“Going into tonight...I didn’t even know that. I guess it was right before the game I kind of thought about it and said ‘when’s the last time that I’ve gotten a point here’,” said a smiling Fine following the game. “I still thought I was playing well and doing the little things right. You never want to be a guy that when you’re not getting points ...you’re not doing anything. Just stay with it, don’t feel sorry for yourself and keep working hard.”
The renowned hat-trick performance wasn’t the only sparkling feat that Fine accomplished Thursday. His first goal of the game midway through the second was his 115th career point as a Ram and gave him sole possession of second all-time in points as a member of the blue and gold.
“Personal milestones are always nice and when I think about it, I just have a lot of people to thank,” said Fine after his historic night. “I thank Graham Wise for bringing me in here and giving me a lot of opportunity. Playing with the good line mates I have right now and my great line mates in the past. It’s really a team effort. It’s not just me. It’s something to look back on when it is all said and done, but as of right now, I’m not really focused on it at all… I just want to win games.”
And winning is exactly what took place for Fine and the rest of his Rams teammates Thursday as they responded big time in the lopsided victory.
The Rams got off to a hot start and made the Badgers pay the piper for their early-undisciplined play. Badgers’ defenseman Jeff Corbett, took a tripping penalty less than two minutes into the game and sent the Rams to an early opportunity on the man-advantage. A minute into the infraction, a bouncing puck in the slot found its way to a wide open Devon Paliani at the far-side of the net, who potted home the game's opening goal past a sprawling Clint Windsor and in to set the tone.
Less than two minutes later, Josh Timpano of the Badgers found himself in the box for hooking and once again sent the Badgers scurrying on another penalty kill.
The Rams moved the puck with ease before finally finding their triggerman for the marker. Daniel Poliziani and Aaron Armstrong played keep away before Armstrong found a locked and loaded Paliani for the one-timer, who blasted home his second power play goal of the game to put the Rams up 2-0 just over five minutes into the first.
“It was huge. Anytime you have a team coming into your own building you want to shut them up right away,” said Paliani when asked about the crucial quick start. “We got fortunate enough to get a couple power plays early and we were fortunate enough that we could capitalize on them.”
The Rams continued their relentless pressure throughout the opening frame and struck twine once again mid-way through the period. Armstrong cut through the crease before he came upon a loose puck in front and shoveled home his tenth goal of the season. The third Rams goal chased Badgers’ Clinton from his crease and replaced him with backup goalkeeper, Alex Brooks-Potts, in hopes of a change.
The first period came to an end with the Rams leading heavily 20-6 in the shot department. Rams’ starting goaltender, Taylor Dupuis, was barely tested, yet sharp through the game's opening 20 minutes.
The second period was more of the same for the Badgers after Fine’s first on the night made things a 4-0 game. Just under a minute later, the Badgers finally responded after a long shot from Timpano beat Dupuis for the Badgers’ first goal.
The Badgers outshot the Rams 12-11 in the second, but not without allowing Fine to score his second of the night with a gorgeous shot for his 116th career point and 11th goal on the season. Fine’s goal came just minutes before the end of the period and sent the Rams to the third with a 5-1 lead.
Fine then wrapped up the Rams’ scoring in the third with a flick of the wrist after receiving a pass from Josh Sterk in close quarters in front. Fine sent the wrist shot over the shoulder of Brooks-Potts and in to tie a career high in goals with 12, his second career hat-trick and his 117th point as a Ram.
The Badgers went on to add a late one but the damage had been done as a one of a kind night from Fine helped lift the Rams to a 6-2 victory over the Badgers.
Dupuis responded with an impressive night between the pipes for the Rams with 23 saves for his sixth win of the season.
Replacement goalie, Brooks-Potts, put forth a remarkable performance in the loss for the Badgers after coming in for relief. The game could have been far worse if not for a number of key saves made throughout his 30 save performance.
Other notable performances for the Rams was a three assist night by Sterk, who had his hand in the cookie jar for all three of Fine’s goals, and Rams’ defenseman Poliziani after he recorded his first point as a Ram in just his third game with an assist on Paliani’s second goal on the evening.
The Rams improve to 14-4-1 on the year and regained sole possession of first place in the West with 29 points thanks to Thursday night’s victory. They will look to continue along the winning path Friday night as they travel to London, Ont. to take on the Western Mustangs at Thompson Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with the game available live on OUA.tv.