More than just victories are on the line as the Ryerson men’s hockey team opens the first round of the playoffs Wednesday. The Rams take on the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues and the title of best team in Toronto is up for grabs.
Coming into the final weeks of the season, Ryerson and U of T have been neck and neck in the standings. This matchup looked to be certain coming into the final weekend.
“It’s like 99 per cent we’re going to play Toronto,” said coach Graham Wise last week. “It’s looked like this for a while, we’ve been preparing and we’re ready.”
But just how ready the Rams’ men will be is the biggest question going into this series.
Both regular season games between the two teams took place within the last month and both were won by U of T. They won 7-4 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) on Jan. 16 and 3-2 at U of T’s Varsity Arena on Jan. 27.
Despite the two losses to the Varsity Blues, the Rams had a good season. They finished fourth in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Eastern Conference with a record of 14-12-1. This fourth place finish secures home ice for this first round series. Top four in the conference was a goal Wise has said he set for this team early on this season.
U of T finished fifth in the OUA East with a record of 13-13-1.
The Rams’ top scorer Domenic Alberga, finished the year with 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points in 27 games. Alberga will need to put in efforts similar to what he did against U of T in the regular season. He scored a goal and two assists in the two games.
The Rams will have to keep an eye on U of T’s top scorer. Jeff Brown had 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points. He had a goal and three assists in the two games against the Rams this season.
The goaltending matchup looks very close as the stats are not far apart. Ryerson’s Troy Passingham and Toronto’s most used goalie Michael Nishi have goals against averages of 3.4 and 3.07 respectively. Their save percentages are even closer, .906 and .908 respectively.
The big difference here is number of games each played. U of T used three goalies this year with Nishi getting 13 of a possible 27 starts. But U of T has started senior goalie Garrett Sheehan the last three games, so it looks likely he will get the start against the Rams.
The Rams’ situation in goal is much more settled. Passingham played every minute of every game for the Rams this season and led the OUA in saves made.
The Rams, at least statistically, have the better goaltending and more offence. The Rams average 3.74 goals per game to Toronto’s 3.33. Even with these stats advantages, many would argue that U of T’s two wins and no loses head-to-head this season give the Blues the upper hand.
The series is a best of three games starting off with game one Feb. 11 at the MAC. Game two will be Saturday, Feb. 14 at Toronto’s Varsity Arena and if a third game is necessary it would be Sunday, Feb. 15 at the MAC.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb. 11, 2015.