By Brandon Buechler
The Ryerson women’s hockey team (13-10-1) was eliminated from its first ever playoff series on Feb. 21, falling 2-1 to the Guelph Gryphons (18-3-3) in overtime.
But for a team that wasn’t expected to go anywhere, it was a good season for the Rams, even if it ended in heartbreak.
“At the end of the day, we’re just so proud of this season,” said Ram’s captain Jessica Hartwick. “We know that it’s unfortunate now, but it’s also a building point for next season.”
Hosting their first home playoff game, the Rams experienced a case of déjà vu following Game 1 of the series, where they also lost 2-1.
The Gryphons’ first goal came with 11 minutes left in the first period, when Jessica Pinkerton managed to find her way behind a diving Alex Armstrong to open the scoring.
Ryerson responded less than 60 seconds into the second period when rookie Kayla Karbonik sank her first post-season goal behind the Gryphon’s goalie, Stephanie Nehring.
Though it was the only scoring action in the period, it wasn’t the only highlight during the scrappy second as emotions bubbled to the surface for all involved — coaches and players.
Midway through the period, Blair Malthanar and Pinkerton collided hard, with both staying down for several minutes and prompting a yelling-match between Ryerson head coach Lisa Haley and Gryphons assistant coach Scott McMillan.
“I was just making sure he felt welcome in our barn,” Haley said with a smile. “It was an intense game and obviously there was a lot of emotions in it. I wanted my players to know I had their back.”
The score remained deadlocked for nearly an hour and it was clear that Guelph had begun to wear down the Ram’s defensive unit.
Despite trailing in the shot count through much of the game, the Gryphon’s offense led it 39-34 by the end of the second overtime period, when one of their attempts finally made it past Armstrong.
“[Armstrong] was solid,” said Haley. “Obviously we would’ve liked to give her more support on the offensive side, but otherwise she was great.”
“We all know this is just a step,” Haley added. “Usually the road to success goes through some losses, and we have to lose before we know how to win.”
The Ram’s finished with a .542 winning percentage and a 13-10-1 record, the best in their four-year history and first winning season. Their appearance in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinals was also a first.
“We would’ve liked to get our graduating players another first, their first playoff win,” said Haley. “This playoff series taught us a lot about ourselves.”