By Jacob Stoller
While the Ryerson Rams’ 5-4 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves may have gotten them two points, the victory didn’t come easily in a game that seemed like déja-vu.
“It’s funny the way this game works. We weren’t very good tonight [but] we found a way to win,” said Ryerson head coach Johnny Duco. “I think there’s been some other games we’ve lost here in the second semester, where we played well and lost a one-goal game. And so over the course of a 28-game season, those things usually even themselves [out].”
Thursday’s game was reminiscent to Ryerson’s last game—a matchup Saturday with the University of Toronto—in which the Rams blew a 3-1 lead in a devastating loss to the Varsity Blues. Against Lakehead, not only did Ryerson have to fight off four consecutive third period goals from the Thunderwolves, but the team had to play catch-up for the first period, as the Rams trailed 1-0.
But the Rams somehow found a way, and that resiliency was in large part thanks to none other than captain Alex Basso, who scored two goals for Ryerson in the come-from-behind win.
“I think that just goes to show why he’s our captain,” said goaltender Taylor Dupuis. “He’s got that calming presence, whether its after a period or after a goal, he always seems to know what to do. So there’s a reason why he’s got the ‘C’ on that jersey and we look up to him big time.”
After a sluggish first period in which the Rams were outshot 18-3, the Rams wanted to make sure they came out guns-blazing in the second.
“I thought we were definitely trying to pass too much and be a little bit cute,” said Duco of the Rams’ early play. “When you can put a puck on net and get the defence to break down and get traffic [in front of the net] and get guys driving to the net and score some ugly goals. As they say, ‘They don’t ask how, they ask how many.’”
With 11:19 remaining in the second period, Basso threw the puck at the Lakehead goalie—hoping for a rebound—only to see the puck go in the back of the net to tie the game up at 1-1 to pull the Rams back in the game.
“I just tried to shoot the puck,” said Basso. “Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t—just getting the puck to the net, we need to do that a bit more and just fire it at a pad or at a stick, and as you saw in my first goal, it just hit a stick and kinda floated in.”
Basso later added another marker in the second period, leading to an eventual 3-1 lead heading into the second period. It was a banner evening for Basso, who was honoured with the John Saunders Award, awarded to the team’s best defenceman. Saunders played for the Rams from 1977 through 1978, and later went on to a decorated career as a sports journalist at ESPN and ABC. Saunders, who died in 2016, received five Emmy nominations for his work, and was inducted into the Ryerson Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
“We’re so thankful to have alumni that treat us so well and come to our games and that support is huge for our program,” said Basso. “I hope when I move on, [I can] kinda bring that presence to the team as well. We get treated so well by our alumni, it’s amazing.”
While scoring two goals in the second period was a huge boost for his team, it arguably wasn’t the most important thing Basso did Thursday night.
Once the third period began, the Rams’ mistakes continued to haunt them. Pucks continued to squeak past Dupuis, and Ryerson sacrificed a plethora of opportunities, finishing the night with 40 shots against. After allowing three goals in the first six minutes of the third period, Dupuis became rattled. Luckily for him, captain Basso came to Dupuis’ rescue with some kind words for his netminder.
“ I just said, ‘Come out of your net, be confident,’” said Basso. “I just said, ‘Be confident in yourself, (and) be confident in your abilities.’ He’s an amazing goalie and he’s showed that time and time again.”
Dupuis would allow one more goal, but it didn’t prove detrimental for the Rams. With 41 seconds remaining in the game, Ryerson rookie Steven Harland stripped the puck from Lakehead goaltender Nick Reynard, to put the Rams up 5-4 and to secure the victory.
With the win, the Rams improve to a 15-7-3 record on the season, placing themselves third in the OUA West. Despite being tied at 33 points with York University, the Rams currently sit below the latter, as they hold the tie-breaker due to their higher win percentage.
UP NEXT: The Rams will go back on the road and take on the Guelph Gryphons on Feb. 3. Face-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.