Photo by Alex D'Addese

Lions eliminate Rams with 3-2 win

By Ryan Bacic

TORONTO – They say all good things must eventually come to an end.  Unfortunately that timely maxim resonated all too deeply with the those in attendance at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Saturday evening, as a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the York Lions has put an end to the Ryerson Rams Queen’s Cup playoff run.

Following a stunning 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Lions in game one, the surging Rams had found themselves with their backs against the wall as they embarked the quest of tying up the best-of-three series against the reigning Queen’s Cup champions on home ice.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Head Coach Johnny Duco understood the necessity of playing a gritty, unforgiving style of hockey if the Rams wanted to push this series to a third game.

“We felt that we needed to come out and compete in all three zones, and play with a sense of urgency.  I thought at times we did and at times, for whatever reason, we were still a little lackadaisical,” said Duco following the season ending loss.  “Overall, I was proud of the guys and the season that we had, and the effort that they put forth today.  Ultimately, we just didn’t get the bounces when it was needed and we came up short.”

Coming into this contest, the Rams understood the challenge that lay before them.  The Lions know how to win in the playoffs, and this was more than proven in game one of the series, when York had an unrelenting final period to produce a massive come from behind victory.

But in this contest, the Rams seemed to learn from their previous mistakes early on. 

While Lion’s netminder Mack Shields (Saskatoon, Sask.) proved to be unforgiving in the opening frame, correcting any shortcomings apparent in the Lions defense, the Rams exhibited more aggressiveness in their play when compared to the first game, as they forcefully pursued opportunities offensively. 

On the defensive side of the things the Rams were far more collective in their approach, as they were able to put a stop to several York opportunities, while veteran netminder Taylor Dupuis (New Liskeard, Ont.) made an incredible 10 saves throughout the opening frame to keep the scoreboard tied at 0-0 heading into the second period.

Unfortunately for the Rams, the second frame would begin almost immediately on the wrong foot.  Just fifteen seconds in, York forward Colton Vannucci (High River, Alta.) tapped in his third goal of the playoffs to give his team an early 1-0 lead. 

Vannucci would quickly be followed up by teammate Daniel Nikandrov (Richmond Hill, Ont.), who would provide his first goal of the postseason on the power play to give the Lions a 2-0 advantage midway through the second frame.

The Rams would be provided with some momentum right as the horn rang to signal the conclusion of the period, as freshman Cavin Leth (Taber, Alta.) fired home a goal with a tenth-of-a-second remaining on the clock to cut the Lions lead to just one goal as the teams headed for the locker room.

With nothing to lose, and an opportunity to advance to gain, the Rams could do nothing more than throw everything they had at the York line-up as they attempted to save their postseason run. 

However, almost nothing in the third period was going the Rams way.  A collective 6 minutes of infractions in the final frame alone, had provided York with countless opportunities to further their lead and, on such occasion, they capitalized.  Midway through the final frame, Lion’s fourth-year forward Trevor Petersen (Thornhill, Ont.) would score on the power play to give York a 3-1 lead with only ten minutes to play.

Petersen’s contribution would quickly be followed up by an Aaron Armstrong (Teeswater, Ont.) reciprocation, bringing the game to a one-goal difference.  Unfortunately, this simply wouldn’t be enough, as the Lion’s stormed out of the Mattamy with the win, and the series.

“There an opportunistic team, and we made too many mistakes that wound up in the back of our net,” stated Duco on what he think’s ultimately decided the series.  “I think tonight was anybody’s game.  I feel as though game one was one that we let slip away.  So going into tonight we had our back’s against the wall, and it was ultimately pretty even back and forth, but they just got one more bounce then we did and they came out on top.”          

In reflecting on the series, Assistant Captain, and veteran Ram Lucas Froese (Grunthal, Man.), believed that this series held some lessons for his younger teammates.

“It’s definitely different from junior hockey, I mean the best-of-three makeup is very quick,” said Froese.  “So for the young guys, it’s all about being ready to play and understanding that the little mistakes really matter.  I thought that we were better than York tonight, but it came down to inches, and they simply ended up having a few more than us.”

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