By Hayden Godfrey
On a night in which the indoor temperatures inside the frigid Varsity Arena rivalled those outside, the Ryerson Rams, powered by a standout performance by blueliner Zachary Shankar, ousted the No. 3 ranked Toronto Varsity Blues in overtime 4-3.
In a physical opening period, the Rams had numerous scoring chances and played a sound defensive game, but were unable to convert on any of their first 12 shots.
It wasn’t until the last minute of play when forward Jesse Barwell clanked one off the crossbar and in to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The Varsity Blues answered back early in the second period thanks to forward Jared Leslie, who beat Rams goalie Garrett Forrest short side for his second goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, the Varsity Blues took the lead on a swift wrist shot from Kevin Lavoie that sailed past a sliding Forrest.
“We didn’t get frustrated, we stuck together and found a way to pull out a huge two points,” Rams head coach Johnny Duco told The Eyeopener. “We took some real positive steps forward as we get ready for the playoffs.”
Right on cue, the Rams knotted the score once again, this time on an unexpectedly beautiful set of dekes from Shankar. Playing a pivotal role on Ryerson’s defensive line, Shankar dipped and dangled down the right-wing, finishing smoothly and celebrating accordingly.
“I like to pick my spots,” Shankar said with a smile. “Whenever I can, I jump up and try to make a play. We just focus on what we can control and that’s what we did tonight.”
Toronto once again regained the lead a minute later, this time courtesy of captain Max Lindsay. After a lengthy stretch of back-and-forth hockey, Marcus Hinds floated a wrister that beat Toronto’s Alex Bishop.
After 60 close minutes, both teams tallied three goals, despite the Rams outshooting the Blues 32-18.
In the overtime period, both teams exchanged spectacular scoring chances, with Forrest coming up huge on a Varsity Blues breakaway deep into the extra frame to keep things even.
Less than a minute later, Shankar played the hero, potting his second goal of the contest, again finding open ice and breaking away.
One of his Rams teammates off-handedly described his play as “filthy,” a fitting adjective to describe a normally discrete defender stepping up in a big way.
The Varsity Blues were riding a 14-game win streak dating back to Oct. 12 before tonight’s loss.
They remain one of the most dominant programs this season in Ontario University Athletics, entering the tilt with a stunning 16-2-0 record while ranking third in the country.
“They play the right way,” Duco said post-game. “He’s got them buying in. They work extremely hard, they’re committed to defence-first hockey, and they’ve done a great job all year executing.”
This was the Rams fourth consecutive win and their final matchup of the season with the Varsity Blues, as they took the season series 2-1.
UP NEXT: The Rams will continue their road stretch and head back to Waterloo where they’ll take on the Laurier Golden Hawks on Jan. 11. Puck drops at 7:07 p.m.