The Ryerson Rams curling teams entered the final days of the OUA curling championship needing to win all seven of their final round-robin games (three for the women’s team, four for the men’s team) to qualify for the playoffs.
They called it the #WinOnlyWeekend, and nine games later, it is still intact.
The women delivered a second straight playoff upset on Monday afternoon, this one a 5-4 win over the Carleton Ravens, to seal their place in the OUA final. With the win, the Rams also sealed their place in the 2017 U Sports-Curling Canada Canadian University Curling Championships in Thunder Bay next month.
Coming off an upset of the Brock Badgers in the quarter-final, the 5-3 Rams were once again listed as the underdogs against the 7-1 Ravens.
They played like anything but underdogs early on.
Without hammer in the first end, the Rams were buoyed by good takeouts from vice Nicole Titkai and skip Maggie Macintosh that forced the Ravens to take a single point. The Rams front end of lead Teagan Walton and second Audrey Wallbank set the Rams up well in the second end, but good hits from the Ravens forced Macintosh to make a takeout for a single point to tie the game.
In the third end without hammer, the Rams did well to hit and roll behind cover early on. Two more successful takeouts from Macintosh forced Ravens skip Lauren Horton to hit and stick for one with the last shot of the end. Her shot didn’t get the required contact on the right side of the sheet, hitting the Rams stone out but also rolling out herself to give the Rams a steal of one. The Ravens set themselves up much better in the fourth end with multiple rocks just behind the four foot circle. But Titkai and Macintosh continued their strong defensive play by drawing in rocks of their own and ultimately limiting the Ravens to a single point.
In their round-robin meeting, the Ravens took a 5-2 lead into the fourth end break en route to a 9-3 victory. Getting to the break tied 2-2 was proof of the Rams’ improvement since their first meeting with Ravens, and that improvement carried over into the second half of the game.
After opting to blank the fifth end to try to give themselves hammer for the eighth end, the Rams got their breakthrough in the sixth end. Misses from Walton and Wallbank left lots of rocks in front of the house, but they were still able to get two stones in scoring position. A superb draw behind cover from Titkai – that just squeaked past two guards thanks to a big sweep from Walton and Wallbank – left the Rams sitting three ahead of skip stones. Horton did well to draw to the four foot on the other side of the ice to try to prevent the big score. But Macintosh was up to the challenge, making two consecutive hit-and-rolls to preserve a score of three for the Rams.
Continuing their string of great hits into the seventh end, the Rams once again forced the Ravens into a difficult shot for two. Horton tried to tap up a guard and roll her shooter to sit two, but her shot overcurled, giving the Ravens another single score to trail 5-3.
The Rams played a clean eighth end with hammer, hitting Ravens stones out to keep the ice as empty as possible. With the final shot of the game, Macintosh had two Ravens rocks sitting beside one another on the right side of the eight foot circle to aim for. Needing to hit one out for the win, she would make no mistake and hit the outermost of the two and roll out. The Ravens stole a point, but the Rams would take the 5-4 victory.
The Rams women were jubilant after the win, shedding tears and hugging loved ones in attendance as they walked back up to the clubhouse.
“The original goal coming into OUAs this year was to finish 4-3 in the round robin because last year we were 3-4,” second Audrey Wallbank said after the game.
“Everything else is just a massive bonus. So beating Brock and beating Carleton and potentially beating Laurentian (who the Rams face in the final) shows that anyone is beatable here and we’re having a great run and it’s amazing we’ve made it so far in our second year (as a program).”
Wallbank was particularly emotional after the game. The first-year student “had a good cry” and embraced her parents and boyfriend after the game, and said having her loved ones around her helped push her to play her best.
“It makes it so much more special,” Wallbank said.
“For some people it must add extra pressure, but for me it’s just more incentive to perform and more incentive to do better, because if I succeed I have people to share it with, and it makes it so special.”
The Rams will face the Laurentian Voyageurs in the OUA final at 5 p.m. on Monday. Regardless of the outcome, both the Rams and Voyageurs will be heading to Thunder Bay for the national championships.
Wallbank has never been to Thunder Bay before, but says she is excited for the challenges that await the team there.
“I hear it’s pretty cold,” Wallbank said.
*LSFE= Last Stone First End*