By Hayden Godfrey
Despite having a boisterously large and enthusiastic crowd at Mattamy Athletic Centre, the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team fell 4-3 in double overtime to the Toronto Varsity Blues, forcing them to battle in a rubber match Sunday at Varsity Arena.
Sometimes, intangibles in sports really can make a difference, and in Saturday night’s second game of the second round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) McCaw Cup playoffs, the Rams couldn’t be saved by those intangibles.
The third period, which ended with both teams tied at 3-3, was largely marked by questionable officiating and numerous arguments between Rams head coach Lisa Haley and the officials, one of whom was injured midway through the frame after getting crunched into the sideboards.
“It always takes a little bit of time to figure out the standard,” Haley said of the role officiating played in the game. “When you think you’ve got it all figured, sometimes they just see the game differently.”
After a 20-minute overtime period decided nothing, the Varsity Blues ended the Rams’ hope for a sweep when Taylor Trussler took advantage of a sloppy giveaway by Julie Patricio and beat goaltender Rach Seeley to secure a hat trick and keep her team’s season alive.
“They made us pay for a mistake and it ended up costing us the game,” Haley said. “We’re just gonna look through the front window here and not look back. Mistakes happened today, and mistakes are going to happen tomorrow as well.”
In the first frame, both teams traded nifty plays, but the Varsity Blues clearly had the upper hand, outshooting the Rams 8-1 through 20 minutes and winning almost every puck battle.
It was much of the same for the Rams in the second, as they continuously were ousted in tough spots and had to rely upon on Seeley to keep them in it.
Still, the Rams managed to strike first in exciting fashion.
With just under six minutes to go in the middle period, Madison Lalonde made a stellar pass to Lauren Nicholson, who escaped the Varsity Blues defenders and broke out down the ice. Skating past the slot, Nicholson ripped one over the left shoulder of Varsity Blues netminder Erica Fryer, striking the crossbar at a perfect angle and potting her second of the playoffs.
Less than a minute into the third frame, Taylor Trussler slid a loose puck past Seeley to tie things up, only to be outdone two minutes later by Nicholson again, who beat Fryer for her second of the game.
“Both teams are good with their structure and it’s hard to find space,” Rams head coach Lisa Haley told The Eyeopener. “Honestly, adrenaline starts to take over and you’re pushing beyond what you have in the tank.”
Immediately after Nicholson gave her team the lead, the Varsity Blues answered back in questionable fashion.
After a giveaway in front of the Rams net, Trussler tried to sneak one through Seeley but was stopped by a sound glove. Still, Trussler continued to strike the glove, eventually breaking Seeley’s hold on the puck and allowing it to pass through. Much to the dismay of the Rams netminder, who believed the play should’ve been whistled down, the Varsity Blues potted the equalizer.
After a penalty was called later against Rams blueliner Teagan Gartley, the Varsity Blues took advantage and for a 3-2 lead, this time thanks to Christine Chao.
Strikingly, the Rams responded with captain Kryshanda Green nailing a backhanded shot past Fryer to tie things up but it wasn’t enough to stop the Varsity Blues in double overtime.
The series now shifts back to Varsity Arena in a do or die Game 3 as the Rams will look to make the OUA Finals for the first time ever.
UP NEXT: In perhaps the biggest game in program history, the Rams will face off against the Varsity Blues Sunday night at Varsity Arena. Puck drops at 7:00 p.m.