By Kintaro Skinner
Despite being outplayed for virtually the entire game, the Rams pulled through with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 over the Toronto Varsity Blues at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Feb. 14.
With the victory, the Rams hold a 1-0 lead over Toronto in the first round of the OUA playoffs.
Rams forward Matt Mistele scored the game winner at the 5:39 mark of the extra period, which also happened to be his second goal of the night. It was fitting end to Ryerson’s night, as their leading scorer in the regular season came through in the biggest moment of the campaign.
The third-year winger was unable to participate in the playoffs last year due to a wrist injury. For Ryerson, It was a welcome sight to see him composed under pressure at 100 per cent.
“I just fully got it back to normal at the beginning of this year and being able to help my team in the playoffs is awesome,” Mistele said.
The Rams dominated overtime with nine shots in six minutes, but it couldn’t cover up some mishaps during the course of the game.
The Varsity Blues stuck to a collapsing defensive system from puck drop, which forced Ryerson to carry the puck into the neutral zone instead of springing their speedy forwards with stretch passes. For the first half of the game, Ryerson was struggling to get past centre ice, as they constantly coughed up the puck.
It was clear from the start that the Varsity Blues’ plan was to frustrate Ryerson’s top guns, forcing stars such as leading goal-scorer Mathew Santos to make an impact without putting the puck in the net.
“Being a shooter they like to keep me to the outside, so I just gotta try and create those chances and if not get to the net and put in a greasy one,” Santos said.
Despite not registering in the goal column, the second-year winger still finished with two assists on the night.
Offensively, the Varsity Blues were able to capitalize off of Ryerson’s turnovers, taking an early 1-0 lead in the first period off a goal by forward Kevin Lavoie.
In the second, Mistele tied the game on a four-on-four setting, after Ryerson captain Alex Basso and Blues forward Nathan Hudgin took offsetting minor penalties.
Although Toronto would take a late lead in the third off a goal by Max Lindsay, Ryerson seemed to have figured out their opponents, scoring just 33 seconds later off a Hayden McCool rebound.
After ending the thrilling matchup on a high note, Rams head coach Johnny Duco doesn’t want to take any chances in ending the series against this Toronto squad.
“They’ve (Toronto) arguably been one of the best teams in our conference down the stretch, [so] we knew we were gonna have our work cut out for us,” Duco said. “ [On] saturday night, we got to do our best to finish this series, because they’re a dangerous hockey team and we can’t give them any life.”
UP NEXT: Game two of the best-of-three first round series will be on Feb. 16 at Varsity Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m.