By Daniel Michael Centeno
The Ryerson Rams eliminate the Brock Badgers after forward Brooklyn Gemmill scored her second consecutive game-winning goal in the 3-2 win at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Ryerson took Game 1 of the series on Feb. 20 in St. Catharines, Ont. where Gemmill also scored the game-winner five minutes into the extra frame.
“I feel amazing. Definitely, everyone is contributing,” said Gemmill. “Passes are on the tape, and when that happens, it’s very easy to play the game.”
Gemmill now has two goals and one assist in two playoff games for the Rams.
The team opened the scoring with an individual effort from forward Olivia Giardetti at the 11:03 minute mark in the first period.
After applying pressure in the offensive zone with shots from the point, Giardetti beat Badgers goalie Jensen Murphy on the right side of the net.
“As a team, we are doing a really good job at sticking together. Individually, this gives everyone a boost of confidence,” said Giardetti.
During a battle for the puck along the boards, Badgers forward Cassidy Maplethorpe was down on the ice for several minutes after a hit from Rams forward Lauren Nicholson’s at 16:46. Maplethorpe went to the dressing room but did return to take the second period opening face-off.
In the ensuing Brock power-play, Rams goalie Rachel Seeley made three crucial saves to preserve the lead as the period ended.
But later on, Badgers forward Claudia Murphy sneaked a shot past a sprawling Seeley to tie the game at 6:29 of the second period as Brock’s Mikayla Flanagan and Avery Vickers assisted on the goal.
Not long after, Murphy struck again, netting her second goal of the game after a scramble in front of Seeley’s crease to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead at 10:31.
Seeley, who finished with 28 saves, was happy with how the team kept its composure defensively after Murphy’s quick goals and a flurry of breakaway chances from the Badgers offence.
“We’ve been practicing [since Game 1] what Brock knows, and what Brock likes to play like, and we just kept to what we know [defensively],” said Seeley.
Rams head coach Lisa Haley said her team had to reset mentally after losing their lead and falling behind.
“Mainly, it was about playing a lot harder defensively. We got a little bit loose and good on Brock for being resilient [with the two goals scored],” said Haley.
The Rams responded with a power-play goal from fifth-year captain Kryshanda Green with under a minute left in the second period off an assist from forward Avery Horlock.
Brock’s bench immediately signalled to the referees that goalie Jensen Murphy was allegedly interfered within her crease before the goal.
When no call was made, Murphy retaliated in the next play with a roughing penalty that was served by Flanagan.
Twenty seconds into the third period is when Gemmill striked and scored the power-play goal on the Murphy penalty to take a 3-2 lead.
With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker in the final minutes, Brock was not able to set up their offensive zone sets for any quality chances on net. Gemmill’s goal would prove to be enough to be the series clincher.
Throughout the game, the Rams special teams were crucial to securing the victory, as their penalty kill was perfect on seven occasions.
Giardetti said their effective penalty kill relied on winning puck battles with their size advantage and “putting their bodies in better positioning” to block passing lanes.
After a shaky start to the season, the Rams entered the post-season winners of four of their last five games to earn the fifth seed.
Ryerson will now face off against the No. 3 ranked Toronto Varsity Blues in the semi-finals, a team they’ve lost to four times this year.
“I definitely think we are the underdogs in the next series. We will use that to our advantage,” said Gemmill. “We can be the more hardworking team and beat them skill-wise. When bounces come our way, I think it will work in our favour.”
UP NEXT: The Rams will face off against the Toronto Varsity Blues for Game 1 of semi-finals action on Feb. 26