Goalie Alex Armstrong and rookie defenceman Rachel Dowdall

Photo Natalia Balcerzak

Women’s hockey lose physical season opener to Varsity Blues

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By Brandon Buechler

The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team lost their season opener 2-1 against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues 2-1 Thursday night.

Played in front of a packed crowd at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, on paper the Rams played an uneventful game against their cross-town rivals. But with a fight in front of the Blues net, the night was anything but uneventful

“Hopefully our memory will be short from this game’s loss,” said head coach Lisa Haley “[But] long in terms of the last time we played [Guelph], as we went toe-to-toe.”

The Varsity Blues seemingly had the advantage in the first period, dominating puck possession inside the Rams half and strong-arming Ryerson’s defensive line into action. Despite the pressure the Rams held steady against a barrage of shots, 13 reaching the pads of junior goalie Alex Armstrong.

However, Toronto’s Taylor Day’s harmless pass found a way behind Armstrong and broke the scoreless game just 38 seconds into the second period. The 1-0 lead was held well into the third period.  

It was in the third when the sparks began to fly. After several penalties, plenty of collisions and even a scrap in front of Toronto’s net, Ryerson’s Sarah McGilvray fired over the Blues goalie Valencia Yordanov to tie the game 1-1.

“I think we would prefer to play that kind of game, as long as we are in control of our emotions,” Haley said . “The physical play around the puck is great. Retaliation after the whistle has no purpose from either side, but hard, physical play with the game is on is definitely a style you’ll see a lot of OUA teams play.”

The back-and-forth affair ultimately ended in favour of the Varsity Blues, when a pass meant for a Ram ended up in the hands of a Blue’s captain, Kristi Riseley, snatched the puck and faced Armstrong all alone.

The shot, deflected off Armstrong’s shoulder, seemed to hang in the air for hours before depositing itself inside Ryerson’s net. And despite a valiant final effort, the Rams had sealed their fate to the disappointment of many inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre.  

Haley was happy with the performance despite the “rusty” start, underscoring McGilvray’s tying goal.

“I think that whole crop of second year players like [Alex] Rodriguez, [Alyssa] Connolly, McGilvray, [Madison] Martin and whoever else I’m leaving out… definitely has what it takes to be able to contribute offensively,” said Haley. “They have a year under their belt now and you can see that. Sarah’s goal was a great example.”

Tomorrow the Rams will face the Guelph Gryphons for the first time since a devastating defeat at the OUA quarterfinals, removing the team from its first-ever playoff appearance. The game will take place at Gryphon Centre Arena in Guelph at 7:30 pm.

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