By Sports Staff
The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team earned its first-ever playoff win Wednesday afternoon, defeating the Nipissing Lakers 4-2 on the road to take a one-game series lead in the first round of the McCaw Cup playoffs.
Lisa Haley, Ryerson’s head coach, has been coaching the team since 2011, not including one year’s sabbatical in 2013. But in the women’s hockey program’s six seasons, the Rams only made the playoffs in 2015, when they dropped two heartbreaking games in overtime to the Guelph Gryphons. So when the Rams finally managed a postseason victory Wednesday, Haley was thrilled to say the least.
“I think we were hopeful that it would’ve happened sooner,” Haley laughed during an interview with The Eyeopener as the Rams drove back from North Bay, Ont. “The key was really to get past all of those distractions and focus on what we knew we needed to do.”
And from the start, the Rams looked intent on winning.
Second-year forward Lauren Nicholson, who scored a hat-trick last week against UOIT, potted the first goal of the day to give the Rams a 1-0 lead headed into the second. When the Lakers beat Rams goalie Rachel Seeley to tie the game five minutes into the period and subsequently took the lead, Nicholson struck again—her second multi-goal game in her last three.
With five goals in three games, Nicholson’s outpaced her first-year total of four, and she’s picking up steam at just the right time. “She has been huge for us,” Haley noted.
With the game knotted at two, Ryerson needed a spark to put them over the top. Fortunately, their captain, Ailish Forfar, was ready to provide it.
Forfar, who missed several games after suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 4 against Laurentian, returned to the Rams’ roster Wednesday, giving Ryerson much-needed leadership and strength up front.
“The team morale changes instantly when she goes into the lineup,” Haley added.
In the second period, Rams forward Kryshanda Green deflected a Forfar shot past Nipissing goaltender Madison Solie to put the Rams up by one. And in the third period, when the Lakers pulled their goalie in an attempt to even the score, Forfar iced the game with an empty-netter, her first goal since the day before her injury.
The win over Nipissing, who finished five points ahead of Ryerson, was not an easy one to come by. Haley called Nipissing a “strong, talented team,” and pointed to their previous playoff success as a real challenge for the Rams. Last season, the Lakers lost in the McCaw Cup finals to Guelph, and several players from that silver-medal-winning team are still members of this year’s team.
“It was certainly a tall order for us,” Haley said.
Now, the Rams will have to work to ensure Wednesday’s victory wasn’t a fluke.
Winning one playoff game is nice, but after six years of waiting for that first win, it’d be fair to say that Haley and her squad would rather wait far less for their next.
UP NEXT: The Rams host the Lakers in Game 2 Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Puck-drop is set for 7:15.