By Mike Jagassar
Playoff intensity was in full effect as Ryerson men’s hockey team advanced to the second round of the Queen’s Cup playoffs after defeating the Lakehead Thunderwolves 2-1 in overtime on Feb. 15 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The Rams are no strangers to first round overtime thrillers as for the second year in a row, the team has swept their opening round opponent with a second game overtime victory.
Devon Paliani scored the overtime winner just past the 10-minute mark to win the series.
“I got lucky. [Zachary Shankar] made a great play to put in on my stick and I was able to tuck it in,” said Paliani. “We just played our game. It kind of got away from us in the third period there, but we kept our composure and came back to win it.”
After beating Lakehead earlier this week on Wednesday, the Rams were looking to complete the sweep tonight.
Ryerson dominated early for the most part and kept that momentum going, outshooting the Thunderwolves 41-31. The Rams pulled ahead early in the second period when forward Steven Harland opened the scoring with the first marker of the game just 17 seconds into the second period.
While the Rams dominated in shots, Lakehead was viciously responding with hits and physicality equating to 22 total penalty minutes.
The Thunderwolves had the majority of the momentum in the third period, eventually tying the game when forward Jordan Larson tucked one past Ryerson’s Garrett Forrest, ruining the starting goalie’s potential shut-out late in the game
Aside from losing the shutout though, Forrest was brilliant all game, making key saves for the Rams in some very intense scrambles, especially in the third period. He stopped 30 of 31 shots from Lakehead for a great .967 save percentage.
Lakehead’s Brock Aiken was also phenomenal in net, stopping 40 of 41 shots for a stunning .975 save percentage. Aiken dominated in the late third period as the Rams peppered him with shots and plenty of odd-man rush opportunities.
“It was definitely fun for the crowd, maybe not as fun for us,” said Forrest about the game going to overtime. “I felt good all game and all series, to be honest, it’s important to keep that intensity and come back with the same energy to take on whoever we’ll face next.”
The Rams now set their sights on their next series, a matchup with the Western Mustang.
Ryerson’s head coach Johnny Duco emphasized the importance of resting and preparing ahead for their upcoming matchup.
“Fortunately, it’s reading week, so we can take a day off tomorrow and the guys won’t have as much to worry about school-wise,” said Duco.
“We can really have some good practices Monday and Tuesday and get organized and focus on the next team, whoever they may be, that’s our plan.”
UPDATE: Story has been updated to include Ryerson’s next round matchup