By Jacob Stoller
Whenever the Ryerson Rams face off against their cross-town rivals from the University of Toronto, the standings are thrown right out the window.
Be it the Montreal Canadians against the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Philadelphia Flyers against the Pittsburgh Penguins—rivalries provide a different sort of atmosphere to a hockey game. The goal isn’t just to get the two points for your own team, but to steal two points from the other one—making for an extra sweet victory.
A four-point win, if you will.
“It’s definitely a rivalry,” said Rams head coach Johnny Duco. “They’re fighting for their playoff lives and we didn’t expect anything else.” While U of T’s effort may not be a surprise to Duco, his team’s self destruction on Saturday night, which saw the Rams blow a 3-1 lead and go on to lose 4-3 in OT—isn’t an easy pill to swallow.
About nine minutes into the first frame, U of T forward Adam Wallace capitalized on the Blues’ first power play and scored the game’s opening goal. But Ryerson didn’t let U of T carry the momentum for too long, as Lucas Froese quickly tied the game back up—and then, the flood gates really started to open.
The second period was all Ryerson, as a quick pair of goals from Cavin Leth and Aaron Armstrong gave the Rams a two-goal lead. But as the last minute-and-a-half of the period ticked down, it was apparent U of T was gaining steam, and unfortunately for Ryerson, it was a sign of things soon to come.
“When [we are leading] 3-1, we have to step on their throat and put them away and unfortunately [tonight], we didn’t,” Duco said.
They don’t say the worst lead in hockey is a two-goal lead for no reason.
“I just thought we came out [for the third period] and were a little bit flat,” said Duco. “Obviously they had a lot of energy, playing for their season over there, so kudos to them, they played hard and they didn’t quit—we made some mistakes that ended up in the back of our net.”
And those mistakes were mainly made near Ryerson’s net, where there was plenty of traction near goaltender Taylor Dupuis, something that Duco wasn’t pleased with in the slightest.
“It seemed like every whistle [Dupuis] was laying on his back, and he’d been bumped [and such], but obviously thats their game plan, to get traffic at the net, and we’ve got to do a better job at clearing out [the zone],” Ryerson’s coach added.
Throughout the third period, U of T continued to gain more ground in Ryerson’s zone. At times throughout the third, the Rams weren’t able to clear their own zone for spurts of up to a minute at time. The Blues’ capitalized on the Rams’ mistakes, as Matt Heffernan and Justin Brand each potted goals to tie the game up at three.
All throughout the Blues comeback, it wasn’t just U of T’s players that were picking up steam, it was their fans as well. Just like any other hockey rivalry, most of the heckling was directed toward the visiting team’s goaltender.
And Saturday night was no different. With every goal that Dupuis allowed, the “TAYYYLORR” chants began to roar through Varsity Centre.
“I think [heckling] always makes the game more exciting,” said Dupuis, who allowed four goals on 31 shots. “It kinda lets you get into the game a little quicker, especially when there [are] bodies [being] thrown around.”
As the final buzzer sounded after 60 minutes of play, the score remained 3-3, but the momentum was entirely in U of T’s hands. Twenty seconds into overtime, a goal from Willy Paul erupted the Varsity Centre and capped off the Blues’ comeback.
The game would also feature some issues between the fans and the players, with both teams showing their despair for each other as the game progressed. The Rams weren’t pleased that there weren’t any penalties given to U of T for their role in the melee.
“I’m not going to comment on the officiating [because] it’s just an ongoing fiasco,” said Duco.
Things would heat up even more as the game ended, as a University of Toronto fan harassed Ryerson players during and after the game.
“After the first [period], after the second, after the third, that same [University of Toronto fan] came down yelling and threatening people,” said Duco. “I don’t know why they don’t have security or something [at Varsity Centre]— it’s pretty disappointing.” The harassment became confrontational post-game.
“Someone came over and had some words for one of our players and I mean it doesn’t matter who it is, if it’s the other team or someone off the street, if someone is going to come after our guys, they better believe that there’s 20 of us right behind him.”
UP NEXT: The Rams will host Lakehead University on Thursday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Puck drop is slated for 7:15 p.m.