By Mario Russo
An overtime blast from Joe Rupoli secured the consecutive comeback win for the Rams men’s hockey team, as the blue and gold took their second round matchup Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletics Centre (MAC) by a score of 4-3.
Rupoli’s rip from the blue line would come less than five minutes into overtime and, more importantly, punch the Rams ticket to the west division finals.
“We all knew what we had to do,” said Ripoli following his game-clinching tally.
The Waterloo Warriors opened up the final stanza with a 3-1 lead and two massive penalty kills that saw the Rams special teams unit fall apart at the seams. The Rams would wrap up regulation unsuccessful on all three of their man advantages.
The blue and gold would continue to pressure the Warriors in their own zone, forcing opposing goaltender Dan Murphy to stand tall between the pipes.
It was just another day in the office for the Rams offence, who continued to pepper over 40 shots with little to show for it on the scoresheet.
All that would change midway through the third with the Rams game changers stepping up.
Murphy’s dominance in goal would meet its match following a Kyle Bollers snipe in close to cut the Rams’ deficit to 3-2.
The Rams’ leading goal scorer got the monkey off his back following a snakebitten postseason opener that saw many of his shots get met with the crimson iron of the net.
Rams head coach Johnny Duco believes it was only a matter of time before the rookie phenom found the scoresheet in the postseason, with goal scoring being something he’s come to expect from the forward.
Just as they did to the Western Mustangs earlier in the week, the Rams continued to fight tooth and nail until the final buzzer. With just over three minutes left to play, the Rams finally broke through the tenacious Waterloo defence and knotted the game up at three apiece.
Chris Playfair’s first of the postseason could not have come at a better time for the Rams, the first year shelving a laser beam past Murphy to extend the Rams season another period.
“We knew we were going to come back,” said Playfair.
Rupoli’s overtime winner propelled the Rams into the next round of the Queen’s Cup playoffs. They’ll host the Brock Badgers Wednesday night at the MAC, where it’ll once again be win and advance or survive and go home.
UP NEXT: The Rams host Brock as the postseason rolls on Wednesday at the MAC. Puck-drop is set for 6 p.m.