By Hayden Godfrey
At an absolutely packed homecoming game at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Sept. 20, the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team breezed past the visiting Queen’s Gaels by a score of 4-1.
It seemed as though fans were occupying every square-centimetre of the MAC’s home ice, dressing in gold and cheering on Ryerson until the very last second.
In a rough and jumpy opening period, penalties loomed large for both squads.
Energized by the atmosphere in their home building, the Rams drew numerous sloppy penalties in the first frame, much to the dismay of Rams head coach Johnny Duco.
“We talked about not taking undisciplined penalties,” said Duco following the game. “It’s something we addressed, and after the first [period], we didn’t take any more, so we settled down.”
Still, the Rams were able to weather the storm and get on the board with 25 seconds remaining in the first period, thanks to the swift stickwork of forward Cavin Leth.
Backed valiantly by goalie Taylor Dupuis, the Rams were able to keep the Gaels at bay through much of the second period, relying on tight defence and short spurts of offence to carry them through.
Taking advantage of a timely powerplay, the Rams added to their lead on a beautiful pass from forward Mathew Santos to Hayden McCool, that saw the centre slap the puck over the left pad of Queen’s goalie Luke Richardson to make it 2-0.
The Gaels soon fought back, beating Dupuis on a messy scramble that left forward Matthew Hotchkiss with a wide-open look at the back of the net.
But just minutes into the third, Rams winger Patrick Fellows rifled a pass from Jared Walsh into the slot to give the Rams a 3-1 lead.
“It was an exhibition game, but there was definitely a little bit of an asterisk knowing that it was homecoming and it was in a packed building,” said Duco.
Finally, the team notched their fourth goal of the contest when Santos strolled into the offensive zone and wired a wrist shot past Richardson.
Though the game was an exhibition contest, Dupuis, one of the most vocal critics of last season’s homecoming at a Toronto Argonauts game, was particularly enthused about the support the team got from the home crowd.
“We could hear them from the dressing room,” said Dupuis. “We were really excited to get out there and it’s hard to explain just how fun that was. It blew my expectations out of the water.”
The Rams were able to string together some explosive offensive shifts despite not having their captain and forward Matt Mistele dress due to a head injury.
Duco said he’s confident that Mistele will be back on the ice soon, as his omission from the homecoming game was purely precautionary.
UP NEXT: In a quick back-to-back, the Rams will welcome the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks for a Saturday matinee. The puck drops at 2:15 PM.