By Chris Sanders
In a matchup of two powerhouse teams battling for second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division, the Ryerson Rams took on the Laurier Golden Hawks at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Wednesday night.
In the OUA West, every game is crucial. Heading into the game, Ryerson, Laurier and Waterloo were tied for third with 3-1-0 records, so both the Rams and the Golden Hawks were looking to gain an edge on each other in the tightly contested conference.
Eventually, Ryerson won 4-3 in a shootout, but the road to victory was a bumpy one, and Laurier gave the Rams a serious run for their money.
“Every game in our league is so important with such a short season. You gear up all week to make sure you get that W,” said Rams head coach Johnny Duco. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We know it’s extremely important. There’s points on the line and we’re happy to get the win tonight.”
From the moment the puck was dropped, it was a hard-nosed game. Within minutes, Laurier forward Anthony Conti took a slashing penalty and the Rams headed to the power play. Before Wednesday night, the Golden Hawks had successfully killed all 15 penalties they’d taken so far this season, but Matt Mistele, a Los Angelse Kings NHL draft pick, wanted to spoil Laurier’s party.
Mistele rifled a wrist shot to the top corner for his fourth goal in five games. The excitement was short-lived, as Laurier responded with a goal of their own just minutes later.
Nine minutes into the first period, the Rams found themselves on the wrong side of a five-on-three penalty. Despite being on the penalty kill for four straight minutes, Ryerson found a way to keep Laurier’s power play unit off the board thanks to the terrific netminding of Taylor Dupuis.
With the clock winding down in the first, Laurier appeared to score on the power play off a shot from the point that found its way through traffic. However, the Golden Hawks’ celebrations didn’t last long as the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference. In the first period alone, Ryerson killed four penalties.
Early in the second, Steve Harland put the Rams up 2-1 with a miraculous goal from a tough angle. Laurier refused to keep quiet and answered again, disturbing the crowd’s exuberant atmosphere.
Despite the Rams being outshot 15-9 in the period, Dupuis kept the door shut, leaving the blue and gold knotted at two entering the third. With both goaltenders failing to give in, the next goal would prove to be a crucial one.
The Golden Hawks looked to take their first lead of the game after playing catch-up in the first two periods. Three minutes into the third, Laurier defenceman Kyle Jenkins scored his first goal of the season, putting Laurier in the driver’s seat, although not for long.
Ryerson rookie Cavin Leth reached into his bag of tricks, and with three defenders draped around him went to his backhand to net his first career OUA goal in spectacular fashion. He also tied the game at three goals apiece as time wound down.
The Golden Hawks were resilient, and thanks to a high-pressure forecheck, Laurier kept the Rams in their own end of the ice for the majority of the final minutes.
And what a chaotic final minute it was.
Sprawling on the ground with 30 seconds remaining was Dupuis, stopping an ensuing odd-man rush. The puck had eyes, and it trickled through past Dupuis, slowly sliding en route to a potential Laurier game-winner. Two Rams flung themselves in front of the net, effectively acting as a three-man keeper. Somehow, the puck stayed out, and overtime was needed to settle the score.
A mere minute into overtime, Ryerson looked to capitalize on a four-on-three advantage before the home team took a hooking penalty. The Rams had already killed six Laurier power plays, and the Rams would make it seven to force a shootout.
After three shooters had their chance, Ryerson’s John Carpino buried his, giving the Rams an opportunity to win.
And then, it was déja vu all over again as Laurier netted their next attempt. Mistele stepped up next for Ryerson, putting the team on his back and going bar-down, leaving Laurier with two options: do or die. Unsurprisingly, Dupuis shut the door once more time, backstopping the Rams to the victory on the strength of 43 saves.
With the win, Ryerson leapfrogged Laurier for second in the division. It’s all sunshine and rainbows tonight, but come morning it’ll be back to the drawing board for the Rams as they prepare to take on the undefeated, division-leading York Lions.
Up Next: Ryerson will face the Lions on Sunday, Oct. 28 at York’s Canlan Ice Sports complex. In the preseason, York handed the Rams a 4-0 loss.