By Kyle Edwards
The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team was shutout 5-0 in their season opener against the Toronto Varsity Blues Thursday morning at Varsity Arena, in front of nearly 4,000 fans.
The home team Varsity Blues (1-0-0) netted four goals in the first period and one in the third to win their first game of the season against the Rams (0-1-0), in a loud and atmospheric school event, which drew an electrifying crowd of elementary students.
Forwards Sonja Weidenfelder, Alie Brind’Amour-McClure and Amanda Ricker each had a goal and an assist, as the Varsity Blues handed the Rams their first loss of the season.
“The first [game] is done. The result is not the result we were expecting but the way we battled in the second and third periods, that’s the way this team is going to battle every game,” said Rams interim head coach Pierre Alain.
The Rams started strong in the first period but momentum quickly shifted in favour of the home team after the Varsity Blues scored two goals in less than two minutes.
The Varsity Blues were consistently able to carry the puck into the Rams’ defensive zone and keep it there, capping off the period with two more goals, extending their lead to 4-0.
“We especially got to work on puck possession, we need to improve on it,” Alain said. “We gave the puck up a couple times today and it cost us a couple of goals.”
Toronto goaltender Nicole Kesteris stopped all 20 shots sent her way in a shutout performance.
However, the Rams can take away a big positive in rookie goaltender Alex Armstrong, who relieved veteran, Cassandra McNichol, after the first intermission.
Armstrong kept game within reach, making key saves and shutting down the Varsity Blues offense for nearly 30 minutes before giving up a goal midway through the third period to increase the deficit to 5-0.
“I felt good going into the second and third,” said Armstrong, who stopped 31 of 32 shots. “Our team looked like they stepped it once we made the switch.”
Armstrong’s performance earned her third star of the game honours, and she remains confident that the young team’s comfort level will improve.
“Once all of our rookies get used to the competition and skill level I think we will become a much better team,” said the first-year goaltender, playing in her first OUA league game.
Despite the loss, Ryerson captain Nella Brodett said playing in front of so many fans was a once in a lifetime experience.
“It was good to take in,” said the fifth-year forward. “It might have thrown us off a little bit but I think at the end of the day it is just our team play that we have to figure out.”
The Rams will next play against the York Lions in Saturday afternoon’s home opener at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.