ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Ryerson’s head coach Lisa Haley has long known what Annie Berg is capable of. Haley was at the helm of Team Canada at the U18 World Championships in St. Catharines earlier this year, a team that included the current first-year Brock Badger. Taking on the United States in the gold medal game, Haley, Berg and the rest of Team Canada had to settle for silver after a crushing 3-2 overtime loss.
Fast-forward to Thursday afternoon at the Jack Gatecliff Arena where the Ryerson Rams and Brock Badgers kicked off their 2016-17 regular seasons against each other. After representing their country together earlier in January, the game was the first between Haley and Berg at the OUA level.
Tied at two after 60 minutes and the first overtime period, Berg picked up the puck in her own end during the 3-on-3 overtime session, flew down the ice and fired a hard shot that deflected off the glove of Rams’ rookie goaltender Rachel Seeley (Ottawa, Ont.) and into the back of the net. Although a gold medal wasn’t on the line, Berg’s heroic effort put her on the right side of a 3-2 double overtime game in St. Catharines. All in all, it was a pretty solid debut for the 18-year-old.
The Badgers opened the scoring midway through the first. While on a powerplay, Brock’s Megan Delay fired a slapshot that just missed the target, ricocheted off the boards and rolled in front of Ryerson’s net. Rookie Carley Blomberg got there first and swatted it between the pipes to give the Badgers an early lead.
The Rams responded quickly though. A little over a minute later, a scramble along the boards in Brock’s zone resulted in the puck squeaking out to Alex Rodriguez (Toronto) at the point. The third-year Rams’ defenceman took a heavy shot on net that was tipped by Leanne Baker (Almonte, Ont.) on the way through. The deflection by the first-year fooled Badgers’ goaltender Jensen Murphy and tied the game at one.
Although the second period was scoreless, Ryerson outshot Brock 11-2. Murphy made some great saves, including several during a long Rams’ 5-on-3, to keep the score 1-1 after 40 minutes.
Murphy’s teammates rewarded her with a goal early in the third. Following some pressure in the Rams’ zone, Brock’s Jazz Kennedy wristed a shot on net from the slot. Seeley made the initial save but bobbled the puck. Kailey Peirson was in the right place at the right time to shovel it in and restore the Badgers’ one goal advantage.
Ryerson pushed hard to find the equalizer midway through the period but ran into some penalty trouble along the way. The Rams’ penalty killers were electric though. A strong forecheck and some nice puck movement when they gained possession resulted in Ryerson getting the lion’s share of the opportunities despite being down a player.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the period, the Rams finally solved Murphy again. While playing four-on-four in Brock’s zone, Ryerson’s Ailish Forfar (Sharon, Ont.) stole the puck from Maggie Spratt-Mallick in the corner as she tried to set up a break out. Forfar skated towards the net, deked around Murphy’s attempted poke check and flicked it over her blocker to knot things up at two.
Ryerson continued to push the pace late in the period and throughout overtime. Their best chance to win it likely came midway through the first overtime period when Forfar’s wrister just missed the top corner on the short side after some great work below the goal line.
Murphy finished with 42 saves to pick up the victory while Seeley stopped 25 shots in her OUA debut. Ryerson hits the ice next on Thursday, October 20th for their home opener at the Mattamy Athletic Centre against the Toronto Varsity Blues. Puck drop for the Rams’ School Day Game is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.
Both Baker and Forfar’s goals were their first as a Ryerson Ram… Seeley made a number of key saves to keep the game scoreless during an early Badgers’ man advantage… Rookie forward Elexa Pakozdy (Port Coquitlam, B.C.) was lucky to avoid injury after a devastating open ice hit from Marissa Graham during a Ryerson powerplay in the second. Pakozdy was able to skate off the ice on her own and returned following the Rams’ 5-on-3 advantage.