By Michael Mazzei
Rookie forward Cavin Leth scored his second hat trick of the season to help the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team hand the York Lions a 5-2 loss at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Saturday night.
The last time the two powerhouses met, the Lions dominated the Rams, beating them 4-1 at home. This time, it appeared that the change of scenery changed Ryerson’s fortunes, as the home field advantage was a key factor the contest.
Now, the Rams head into winter break with a stellar 11-4-1 record – placing them in a tie with the Guelph Gryphons for the top spot in the OUA West and just ahead of the 11-5-1 Lions.
Ryerson head coach Johnny Duco was impressed by Leth, who now has 10 goals and nine assists on the year, trailing only Matt Mistele (13) for the team lead in goal-scoring.
“He’s got good speed and when he’s using his speed and finding those holes, he’s a tough guy to play against,” Duco said. “He has been offensively a little bit down the last few games so he was bound to break out with the chances he has been getting.”
Coming off an up and down road trip where they finished with two wins and two losses, Duco was pleased with his team’s resilient effort in this game.
“I thought we carried the play for a majority of the game and the guys stuck with our game plan,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about effort and execution and that if we brought those two things we would have some success as we did tonight.”
Early in the first period, the Rams got themselves in trouble by taking three penalties within the first 10 minutes. On the first two penalty kills, Ryerson goalie Taylor Dupuis was forced to weather a flurry of shots that came his way and remained steady. On the third, York’s Reid Jackman slid a rebound past Dupuis to give the Lions the lead. Soon after, Leth hit the twine for the first time on the night, netting a power-play goal to even the score. York added a shorthanded goal later in the period, and headed into intermission with a 2-1 lead.
The Rams and Lions combined for a total of 26 penalty minutes, and Duco mentioned that it was because of the intensity building in the teams’ cross-town rivalry.
“We tried to stay as disciplined as possible in a game where two teams wanna beat each other really bad,” he said. “In the end, we won the special teams battle and that ultimately helped us win the hockey game.”
The second period was just as scrappy as the first, and Ryerson’s Mitch Skapski quickly scored to tie the game at two apiece.
“There was a lot of reliance on the special teams so at first it was tough to get going with the four lines,” Skapski said. “We were able to bear down and pull through against a tough team.”
A few minutes later, Ryerson’s Vince Figliomeni scored off a great backhand feed from Steven Harland to give the Rams their first lead of the night.
Then Leth struck again, scoring his second goal of the night on a tip-in from a Mistele shot to give his team a 4-2 lead.
In the dying seconds of the third period, the Lions attempted to claw their way back into the game by pulling their goalie for the extra attacker. The strategy didn’t work out, as Leth scored an empty-netter to complete his hat trick and seal the victory for the Rams.
With the win, the Rams head into the holiday break tied with the Gryphons for top spot, which was important to the team, Skapski said.
“It gives us confidence heading into the break,” he said. “It will be nice to go see our families and then we can regroup to keep the momentum when we come back in the new year.”
Up Next: The Rams return to action until Dec. 29, when they head to Fredericton to take on the New Brunswick Reds for an exhibition game at the Aitken University Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m.