By Kevin Gonsalves
This may be the first time any of the players on this hockey team have seen the OUA playoffs, but the Rams aren’t just going to make an appearance.
Ryerson is determined to make an impact, and with home-ice advantage in their opening round series against the Royal Military College Paladins, the expectations are high.
The Rams beat the Paladins 5-1 on Sunday, to clinch home ice and finish a respectable 10-14-0. Despite losing to RMC twice this season, they’re confident they can win.
“We always knew we could beat them,” defenceman David Anthony said. “It was just a matter of trying to set the tone. Sunday was a great start for us.”
The Rams have gained some much needed momentum going into the playoffs. After a post-Christmas slump, the team has played well recently, including a close loss against the top team in Canada, the undefeated University of Western Ontario Mustangs.
For goalie turned defenceman Steve Bewley, the game against Western was a strong indicator of the team’s potential.
“That game showed us that we have the ability to play with any team in the league,” he said. “We can win this series. I believe we have more talent and more size than RMC. As long as we match their work ethic, and as long as we don’t make any mistakes, we’ll be fine.”
The team’s strong play has coincided with a return to strong defensive play, which was missing throughout January.
“We were scoring enough goals,” Anthony said. “But we were giving up way too many goals. You shouldn’t lose games when you’re scoring, three, four or five goals.”
The team’s strong defensive play is the result of a more conscientious approach to team defence, but also an indication that the team’s starting goaltender, Jon Sikkema, has returned to the early season form that gave the Rams success. The Rams gave up one goal to the Paladins in the first period, but shut them out for the rest of the game.
“Our entire team is coming back,” Bewley said. “We know we have a really strong goaltender in Jon, and that gives us a lot of confidence.”
Sikkema, in his first season with the Rams, is thrilled to be in the playoffs.
“That was my goal when I played at the University of British Columbia, and it was my goal coming into this year,” said Sikkema after the team clinched a playoff berth against Queen’s University. “These last games are helpful for momentum.”
The fact that the Rams can even talk about playoff success is remarkable when one thinks about the poor showing of last season, when the team finished 4-20-0. Veteran players like Anthony, Bewley, and winger Ryan Love are ecstatic over the chance to play in meaningful games, for their first time at Ryerson.
“It’s amazing, a really good feeling,” said love, a five year veteran in the playoffs for the first time. “Hopefully, we can go really far and make it to the Final Four.”
The Rams game one of the best of three against RMC is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. This game is at Lakeshore Lions Arena in Etobicoke. On Saturday they go to Kingston, Ont., for game two. If necessary, a third game will take place Sunday, 7 p.m., at Lakeshore Lions.