TORONTO – It was an exhilarating evening at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, as the Ryerson Rams pulled away a hard fought, 4-3 shootout victory over the visiting Laurier Golden Hawks in front of a sizeable home crowd.
The seats of the Mattamy were filled to near capacity on Wednesday night, following a day of celebrations for the five-year anniversary of the Mattamy Athletic Centre. With the support of legions of Ryerson fans behind them the Rams knew they would have to perform at their best possible level to pull off a win against the visiting Golden Hawks.
“It’s amazing, the past three games haven’t been nearly this sort of a crowd,” remarked Ryerson forward Steven Harland (Toronto, Ont.) on the effect of the sizeable crowd on the team’s performance adding, “it definitely makes a big impact when you are able to play, and hear the crowd cheer you on.”
Heading into the first period of play one thing was for sure, the fans in attendance were in for a wild back and forth match-up.
As the puck dropped to start the period, both teams immediately engaged the other with their accepted degree of offensive tenacity, as they implemented high-degrees of physicality with quick in-transition passes. Early on, however, it was evident that the Rams were having difficulty clearing their zone, as the Golden Hawks line-up spent ample time on Ryerson ice throughout long stretches of the period. In spite of this however, it was Ryerson that would be first on the board, as Matt Mistele (Whitby, Ont.) fired in a quick wrist shot five minutes into the period, to put the Rams up 1-0.
As mentioned previously, however, the Rams had difficulty clearing their zone in even-strength moments, and it became more evident as the period wore on. Four minutes following the goal by Mistele, Laurier’s Trevor Sauder (Tavistock, Ont.) rocketed in a wrist shot from close range, following several minutes of uninterrupted Laurier puck movement in the Ryerson zone.
The Rams defensive performance at even-strength, however, was remarkably different from their penalty killing abilities throughout the period. The Rams were able to kill every powerplay opportunity they provided to the Golden Hawks during the first period with remarkable efficiency, at one point even staving off a Laurier two-man advantage eleven minutes into the first.
“We were a little weak defensively for whatever reason tonight, but our focus tonight was to win the special teams battle…and if we could win the special teams battle we would give ourselves the opportunity to win the game,” remarked head coach Johnny Duco on the team’s defensive efforts against the Golden Hawks.
As the two teams headed into the locker room to conclude the first, with the scoreboard tied up at one goal a piece, it was a wonder if the Rams would be able to translate this defensive effort to even-strength moments in the second.
As the second period of play began, it would appear as though the Rams decided to focus more on the offensive aspect. Right from the initial puck drop, the Ryerson squad began to overwhelm the clustered Golden Hawks zone defense and the initial efforts paid off. Only a minute into the second period, Ryerson’s Steven Harland (Toronto, Ont.) forced in a close range goal to put the Rams up 2-1.
However, the lack of attention paid to their defensive play would come back to haunt the home team. Just four minutes after Harland put the Rams atop on the scoreboard, Laurier’s Anthony Sorrentino (Woodbridge, Ont.) fired through a point shot off of a give-and-go play to once again equalize the scoreboard. It would seem that the Rams just couldn’t pull their defensive act together to maintain the lead.
As the second period wore on, the Rams offensive play seemed to falter a bit under the growingly imposing pressure provided by the visiting Golden Hawks. Suddenly, the normally precise nature of the Rams passing-game took a sloppy turn, as turnovers became more common throughout the latter half of the second period. As the two teams headed into the second intermission, with the Rams offense beginning to underperform, it would appear as though an improvement in their defensive play would be imperative in securing a victory.
And yet, early on in the final period of regulation time, it would seem as though the Rams would disregard this message. Just three minutes into the third period, the Golden Hawks Kyle Jenkins (Brampton, Ont.) would tap in a goal off of an unlucky bounce to put Laurier up 3-2 on the scoreboard. However, the Rams would not let this lead stand for long, as just over a minute later Cavin Leith (Taber, Alta.) rocketed in a backhand shot to tie up the scoreboard, and leave Ryerson fans in anticipation, awaiting who would come out on top.
Unfortunately for said fans, a combination of fortified defensive efforts halted any efforts for a regular time victory, and suddenly the teams were headed into overtime.
Maintaining a similar strategy to the conclusion of the third, the Rams maintained a clustered defensive effort that kept the Golden Hawks offense at bay. However, much credit must be given to Ryerson netminder Taylor Dupuis (New Liskeard, Ont.) who made several key saves throughout the overtime period, to prevent Laurier with attaining the win. And with that, the overtime period concluded in no result and the two teams were headed into a shootout, Ryerson’s first of the season.
It wasn’t until the third shooter that Ryerson would find its first goal, coming from John Carpino (Maple, Ont.). Unfortunately, Laurier’s Christian Mroczkowski (Kitchener, Ont.) had an answer to this goal, and was able to beat Dupuis on a backhanded attempt. As the fourth shooters from both teams produced no result, it fell to Matt Mistele (Whitby, Ont.) to provide the goal that would put the Rams on top. As expected, the unstoppable forward came through in grandiose fashion, rocketing a wrist shot past Laurier’s netminder. With Dupuis stopping Laurier’s fifth shooter from finding the equalizer, the Rams had acquired their fourth win of the season.
“We stuck to it tonight, but today’s game wasn’t our best,” remarked Duco on the performance of the team today, adding “mid-week games are always tough on student-athletes, with class happening all day, expecting the best out of the players may be unrealistic, but they stuck with it.”
Next up on their schedule, the Rams face the currently undefeated York Lions at their home ice of Canlan Ice Sports on October 28, at 7:00 p.m.
“We know they are a tough team to play against, but if we bring our A-level effort we will have an opportunity to win the game,” stated Duco on the team’s strategy going into the game against the Lions.