By Mario Russo
The Rams men’s hockey team is looking to turn heads in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) as they look to continue their regular season success into a championship.
The road to the annual Queen’s Cup this season will start at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) with the Rams hosting the Western Mustangs on Wednesday evening. Although they reside in the OUA Far West, Western has given the Rams some tough battles in recent postseason memory, defeating them in a best-of-three series in the 2020 OUA West Division semi-final.
This year’s postseason will work differently, with teams having to compete in a win-or-go-home contest instead of a traditional best-of-three series. However, the single-game format doesn’t faze Rams head coach Johnny Duco, who holds confidence in his group’s ability to compete under pressure.
“We get ready to compete and play hard for 60 minutes because we know what it’s going to take,” said Duco.
Aside from its unique format, this upcoming playoff holds an extra layer of significance for the Rams that makes it all the more important to come out on top.
“We’re gonna have a desperate hockey team”
With over a dozen players set to graduate by season’s end, the Rams will lose vital assets like starting goaltender Garrett Forrest and captain Jared Walsh. Duco will rely on these players to continuously push the season forward.
The Rams’ bench boss understands the task at hand, with this playoff forcing not just all-or-nothing games, but an all-or-nothing season—a challenge Duco and company are ready to embrace.
“We’re gonna have a desperate hockey team,” said Duco, in regards to what may be the Rams’ most important playoff run in recent memory.
As they’ve done all year long, the team will continue to lean on their success from within, holding down a lineup that has won at all major levels of hockey in Canada.
“We’re going to have to beat a couple really good hockey teams”
This includes the experience of former Queen’s Cup winner Michael Cramarossa, who hoisted the trophy in 2018 as a member of the McGill Redbirds.
The youngsters on the roster will also look to hold up their end of the bargain the same way they have all season long. The Rams ‘rookie line’—consisting of Kyle Bollers, Chris Playfair and Elijah Roberts—will be the key to the group’s offensive success in the postseason. The three have a combined 45 points while being Ryerson’s most electric trio this year.
No matter how high the pressure gets, the Rams will continue to fight their way through the postseason in search of winning their first Queen’s Cup since the conference format began in the ’90s.
The Rams have one last kick at the can with this group; through both rookie and senior players, they’ll look to be champions by the end of the season.
“We’re going to have to beat a couple really good hockey teams to get where we want to go,” said Duco.
UP NEXT: The Rams welcome the Western Mustangs for a high-stakes Wednesday night clash at the MAC. Puck-drop is set for 6 p.m.