By Hayden Godfrey
A thrilling 3-2 road victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues gives the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team a 1-0 series lead as they head back home this weekend for Game 2.
For the Rams, Wednesday night’s game against the University of Toronto—the first tilt in the second round of the Ontario University Athletics McCaw Cup playoffs—needed to be a strong one.
As per usual, the crowd inside Varsity Arena was small but mighty. Behind Rams goaltender Rachel Seeley, a dozen U of T students rang bells and banged drums, taunting each Ram that skated behind their netminder.
At one point, they migrated to the other end, took off their shirts, and painted their chests to spell out the phrase “Go Blues.”
In a stunning counter to their enthusiasm and passion, Ryerson was well represented in the stands as well, with travelling students holding up signs that said, “At least our rink has heat.”
“We’ve got the best fans in the league if you ask me,” Rams head coach Lisa Haley said of the atmosphere. “It doesn’t matter where we’re playing, we’ve got a whole community behind us. We felt very well supported by our fanbase today and we played our hearts out.”
Clearly, the Rams weren’t phased by the unfamiliar and somewhat hostile conditions, taking the lead midway through the first frame when Avery Horlock skillfully deeked two Blues defenders and clanked one off the post and in.
Minutes later, the Blues answered back on the power-play, with the equalizer coming from Gabrielle De Serres. But, before the period ended, Rams captain Kryshanda Green ripped a shot past Varsity Blues goaltender Erica Fryer to give her team the lead heading into the intermission.
Early in the second, the Rams built on their lead. This time thanks to Lauren Nicholson, as the continued their solid play for the remainder of the frame, heading to the third up 3-1.
“The second period is an area of focus for us,” Haley remarked. “We want to take a lot of pride in playing 60 minutes, and coming out of the Brock series, we felt that was an area of opportunity for us.”
In the final frame, the Varsity Blues struck on the power-play on a Taylor Trussler shot that found its way through traffic and narrowly slid under Seeley’s pads.
Still, the Rams were able to hold off a constant assault of offence and hang on for the 3-2 victory, despite numerous close calls after the Varsity Blues pulled their goalie with two minutes remaining.
“It’s a big moment for us and our program,” Haley said. “We realize that, but our focus is going to be really narrow. We’re looking at getting as much sleep and rest and nutrition as we can between now and Saturday.”
The Rams snapped a four-game losing streak to the Varsity Blues as it marks their first victory this season against Toronto.
UP NEXT: Hoping to advance to the McCaw Cup Final, the Rams will host the Blues in Game 2 Saturday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.