The closing minutes were nail-biters, but the Ryerson women’s hockey team eked past the Toronto Varsity Blues in the annual downtown showdown, beating them 4-3.
The win was especially big for the Rams as it was their first ever victory against a top-10 team in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, according to head coach, Lisa Haley. She called it a historic win for the team.
The two teams met earlier this season. Ryerson was shut out 2-0 against a Blues team that came into the game with a 4-1-0 record. The Rams were at the opposite end of the standings with a 1-4-0 record.
Early on in the game, you wouldn’t have suspected that.
After a sloppy start that almost led to a Blues goal, the Rams were down 5-2 in shots. But they stormed back with an 11-2 run and were completely in control of the game when rookie Emma Rutherford sniped one, top corner. She played on a line with Melissa Wronzberg and Kayla Karbonik, who were visibly the best line for the Rams. It seemed they rarely left the offensive zone.
Michelle Evagelou would score on the power play to close out the period.
The man-advantage was a big focus for the Rams leading up to the game, as they came into it with zero power play goals on 16 tries. They scored on three of their four opportunities and capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play, scoring twice just 33 seconds apart.
“We’ve put so much time and effort into our special teams, and specifically the power play,” Haley said. “They have an extremely good penalty kill. It’s very aggressive and we spent a lot of time watching video this week, trying to figure out exactly how we were going to overcome that. I think that the diligence paid off.”
Ryerson headed to the third period up 4-1 after dominating the Blues for 40 minutes.
But in the third the Blues showed why they are top in the division. They made a big push, outshooting the Rams 20-7 in the final frame as Ryerson went into a defensive shell.
“I think any team can expect that going into the third. The other team had nothing to lose and we had everything to lose, so it was a matter of just staying calm when they did come back and in the future we need to be stronger in keeping that lead,” team captain Jessica Hartwick said.
With less than five minutes left, the Varsity Blues’ persistence paid off as they scored on the power play to bring them within two. The Blues scored again with two minutes left, but took a penalty shortly after to negate the comeback hopes.
“We expected them to put a push on and that’s exactly what they did,” Haley said. “They’re a top-10 team in the country and that’s exactly what a winning program does.”
It was a great lesson on how to close out games for the Rams, who are rarely in the situation of defending a late lead. But if they play like they did tonight, there will be plenty more opportunities to learn.