Rams edge out chippy Mustangs to take early series lead

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By Hayden Godfrey

In the first game of a best-of-three series, Ryerson took down the visiting Western Mustangs 4-1 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Feb. 19—halting the momentum the Mustangs gained after they eliminated the number one seed Toronto Varsity Blues.

The second round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Queen’s Cup playoffs has been daunting for the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team in the past.

In each of the last four seasons, the team has been eliminated at that stage, despite numerous times being arguably more talented and well-equipped than their opponents.

“We’re doing whatever it takes to get past the second round here, which seems to be our kryptonite,” Rams defenceman Jared Walsh said. “We really want to win this year.”

After a slow start to the first frame, the Rams got on the board with two minutes remaining when Mathew Santos rifled a shot over the left shoulder of Western goalie Luke Peressini, potting his first of the postseason.

Santos, who was kept off the scoresheet throughout much of the postseason’s first series, was a spark plug for the Rams Wednesday.

“[Western] can make something out of nothing real quick,” Rams head coach Johnny Duco said. “They’re a veteran group, so they know how to turn it on this time of year.”

In the second period, the Rams extended their lead thanks to Walsh, who fired a sharp-angle shot shortside to beat Peressini.

The Rams soon strengthened their hold on the Mustangs with a goal from Patrick Fellows but were answered rapidly by Sean Montgomery, who tipped a wrist shot by Rams goalie Garrett Forrest to make it 3-1.

The Rams played solidly in the final 20 minutes, which were punctuated by a late insurance goal by forward David Miller.

Overall, the Rams made a strong statement to open up the series, backed by yet another great night in net from Forrest, who Duco says is a big part of the team’s success so far.

“He’s just got so much competitiveness to him,” he remarked of his netminder. “His tenaciousness and competitiveness in the net is contagious for everyone else.”

Elsewhere on the roster, Duco shined the spotlight on forward Jesse Barwell, who effectively replaced Hayden McCool—who was scratched from the series’ first game—on the team’s top power-play unit.

UP NEXT: The Rams hope to end Western’s magical run Saturday in Game 2 of the OUA quarter-finals, which goes at 3:00 p.m. in London. If necessary, the rubber match will take place Sunday at the MAC.

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