TORONTO - A four-point historic night courtesy of the Rams’ captain Michael Fine helped lead the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team to a lopsided 9-1 blowout victory over the Windsor Lancers Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
It's hard to fathom how on a night that showcased a solid outing from Rams’ goaltender Charlie Graham, and not one, but two Rams recording hat tricks in Matt Mistele and Mitch Theoret, that fifth year Fine somehow managed to yet again steal the much-deserved spotlight.
With his three assists Saturday afternoon, Fine now sits at 80 assists in his career, making him the all-time assists leader in Ryerson men’s hockey program history.
“Right away I just think about, obviously, that it’s quite a few assists…but I think about all the guys that I’ve played with and the guys I’m playing with right now,” credited Fine following his historic night. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go here, and a lot of the guys that I’ve been put with are goal scorers. I like to pass and it’s always been the type of player I am. It’s exciting… but I really just think of all the guys I’ve played with."
In the 2013-14 season, Fine joined a line alongside future pros in Jamie Wise and Domenic Alberga to create one of the most lethal lines in the OUA. Turn the page to this season and it appears that Fine has yet again found some chemistry along the likes of Mistele and Josh Sterk, a line that has put up an absurd amount of points since being pieced together early in 2017.
“I’ve had some great goal scorers on my lines. Jamie Wise just to bring up a few names and Domenic Alberga, who had 18 goals back-to-back,” said Fine. “Those are guys that every time I got it to them, they barred down and put it in… it was almost automatic. Now I have Mistele and Sterk and it's kind of the same situation.”
The trio of Fine, Mistele and Sterk have combined for a jaw dropping 28 points over their last four games including eight as a line Saturday afternoon. Fine alone has 12 points over that time span.
An individual milestone such as Fine’s 80 career assists, of course, can be credited to his past and current line mates, but it’s a two-way street. Yes, he wouldn’t be where he is today as the all-time leader in assists if it wasn’t for playing with such talented goal scorers, but those talented goal scorers wouldn’t have scored as many goals without the touch and vision of Fine. But that’s what he does. He makes everyone around him better. That’s what great hockey players do and more importantly, great leaders.
“It’s a great milestone for him and he definitely deserves it. He is a tremendous leader for us and a hell of hockey player,” said interim head coach Johnny Duco on his captain. “I just can’t say enough good things about him. He does everything we ask and he is an extension of our coaching staff in that dressing room. He rallies the troops and he leads by example. We are real fortunate to have him here for six more games and some playoffs. We will definitely miss him when he’s gone, but he is sure leaving his mark.”
Saturday’s romping was unexpected to say the least, as the Rams needed three third period goals in order to come back for a 4-2 win the last team these two teams met earlier this season.
Special teams play was a huge factor in this one with the undisciplined Lancers taking a whopping 13 infractions throughout the course of the game. If you need help with the math, that’s 26 minutes worth, nearly half the game. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, the Lancers didn’t serve all of the 26 minutes as the Rams finished the evening with an impressive 5-12 on the man advantage.
Theoret opened the scoring for the Rams with a deflection in front just under five minutes into the game to snap a 10 game goalless drought. Just ten minutes later, the Lancers responded with a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play finished off by Chad Shepley’s first goal of the season.
Just seconds after the tying goal, the Lancers evaporated any and all of the momentum they sustained from Shepley’s marker with a penalty. It took just 34 seconds for the Rams to once again take the lead as Mistele pounced on a loose puck in front to beat Lancers’ goalie, Blake Richard, for his first of three on the night. The goal solidified Fine’s first assist on the evening.
The second period opened right up with three power play goals for the Rams. Fine, Theoret, and Mistele all scored on the man advantage as the Rams took a controlling 5-1 lead into the third and final period.
Fabrizio Ricci joined the party early in the third with a rebound goal in tight assisted by non other than Fine, and with his assist on Mistele’s late second period goal, along with the assist on Ricci’s, Fine officially became the all-time best passer in Rams history.
Mistele and Theoret both capped off their hat tricks moments later to make it an 8-1 game. Erick DeLaurentis then put a bow on it with his first of the season as the combination of the Rams’ elite offense and the solid play of Graham between the pipes lifted them to a 9-1 win over the Lancers.
Graham finished the evening with 32 saves for his 10th win of the season and boosted his save percentage to an impressive .917%.
With the win, the Rams now hold a five-point lead atop the West division and improved their record to 17-4-1 on the season. The 17 victories ties Ryerson's program record for most in a season.
The Rams return to action next Friday in what will be a different game against the challenging Queen's Gaels. Game is scheduled 7:15 p.m. start at the Mattamy Athletic Centre and can be streamed live via OUA.tv.