It was the kind of storybook ending to a game that even Disney producers would have a hard time believing.
The Ryerson men’s soccer team, mere seconds away from being eliminated from playoff contention, rallied to tie the score in the final minute of regulation, then scored again in the final minute of extra time to pull out an improbable 3-2 victory over the U of T Blues in OUA East quarter-final action Sunday at Birchmount Stadium.
“This is something else,” said Rams’ fifth-year midfielder Alex Braletic, the nation’s top goal scorer, and the man who ultimately saved Ryerson’s season when he buried the equalizer in the 90th minute. “It speaks volumes to the characters of these guys.”
“I can’t even describe it,” added fifth-year forward Armin Tankovic, who scored Ryerson’s first goal to stake them to an early 1-0 lead in the 20th minute. “One thing that we can take pride in is being a gritty team. We may not play the prettiest soccer, but we play tough, and that showed today.”
First-year midfielder Nick Lambis picked the perfect time to score his first ever OUA goal, scoring the game winner in the 120th minute off a corner kick from Martin Dabrowski.
“To put it modestly, we were fortunate to win,” said Rams associate coach Filip Prostran. “I don’t know if it was nerves or rust, or a little bit of both. We didn’t have our best performance.”
Despite not being at the top of their game, the nation’s second-ranked team exorcised a few demons from playoffs past in the win. Ryerson lost to U of T in the quarter-finals two seasons ago before being bounced by Carleton on penalty kicks in the quarters last year.
Ryerson will now face unranked Windsor in the OUA Final Four on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Birchmount Stadium. The Lancers upset the two-time defending OUA champion McMaster Marauders 2-1 in overtime on Sunday to advance to this weekend’s semifinal.
The Rams, meanwhile, are on the verge of history. The winner of Saturday’s match will earn a berth in the CIS men’s soccer championship, held in Fredericton, N.B., Nov. 7-10. Ryerson has never had a soccer team represented at the nationals, while no team in any sport has ever won an OUA or CIS championship in school history.