By Michael Mazzei
Ryerson’s men’s hockey team knew they were in for a tough battle against the Queen’s University Gaels at the Mattamy Athletic Centre Saturday night.
They fought hard, but in the end Queen’s edged them 4-3, handing Ryerson their first loss of the 2017 season. The Rams now hold a 3-1-0 record, good enough for third place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) west division.
Despite the loss, the Rams did a lot of things right. Ryerson outshot the Gaels 34-21, finished a respectable 1-4 on the power play and got some good saves from rookie goalie Mario Culina.
“I’m not disappointed with the way we played at all, I thought we played quite well,” Rams head coach Johnny Duco said. “[Kevin Bailie] made some huge saves for the Gaels and he’s one of the elite goalies in the league for a reason.”
The Rams also got a great offensive performance from their two senior-year star players. Centre Aaron Armstrong scored twice, and captain Alex Basso chipped in with two assists for a combined four points between them.
Basso is off to a strong start offensively, and now leads the team in scoring with seven points in just four games this year. He credited his recent play to hard work in the offseason.
Duco was impressed by his captain’s effort on both ends of the rink, emphasizing Basso’s importance to the entire team.
“He’s an elite defender and one of the best in the country because he can control the game with his standing edge work,” he said. “He’s our horse back there and we’re going to go as far as he can take us.”
The start of the game saw both the Rams and the Gaels play a tight, physical game. Both teams checked hard, creating space for quality chances on net.
About 10 minutes into the first period, Gaels defender Warren Steele opened the scoring by banging home a rebound of a Graeme Brown shot past Culina. The lead was short-lived, as Ryerson tied it up less than a minute later when Armstrong knocked in a rebound of his own to beat Bailie.
Queen’s bounced back and took a 2-1 lead into intermission.
Early in the second period, Ryerson made good on a power play opportunity when Armstrong beat Bailie for the second time.
After the game, Armstrong said that he was able to have success offensively thanks in large part to Basso and his line-mates Matt Mistele and John Carpino.
“I owe a lot of the credit to him and my line-mates for sure,” he said.
On the next shift, the Rams pulled ahead on a blast from the point by blueliner Austin Clapham, appearing in his first career game for Ryerson.
From there, the Rams took control of the game, firing a high volume of shots at the Gaels net-minder. However, Queen’s stole the momentum back when Eric Ming scored the tying goal.
In the third, Ryerson and Queen’s grappled for the lead. The Rams failed to put a shot past Bailie on a pair of early power plays, and Queen’s made them pay for it.
Forward Ben Fanjoy scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal with 12 minutes to go.
Even when the Rams were down late in the game, Armstrong says they still felt they had a chance to win.
“These one-goal games are tough because a mistake here or there can change it drastically,” he said. “We have to tidy up a few areas and try and be better for next time.”
Duco echoed his star player’s sentiment.
“We’re not happy with the result but we liked the way our guys played. I’m confident this group will rebound and come out with a solid effort on Wednesday,” he said.
Up Next: The Rams will look to continue their strong start when they host the Laurier Golden Hawks on Oct. 25 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.