Ryerson’s women’s hockey team won its first playoff series in the program’s history Sunday, and they did it in dramatic fashion against Queen’s.
After dropping game one of the OUA quarterfinal series, the Rams rallied to win game two in double overtime and game three in overtime to secure themselves a spot in the semifinals against top-seeded Guelph. The win marks the program’s first playoff series win since they became the Rams in 2011, much to the excitement of head coach Lisa Haley.
“It felt like we really turned a corner,” said Haley. “I told my team this is the most exciting moment for me in my Ryerson career and probably the most exciting since the Olympics,” a reference to her role as assistant coach with the Canadian women’s team at the Sochi Games.
Haley says the way the first round unfolded can only help the team win more games going forward.
“To win at any level you need to go through some adversity and overcome it, and those two overtime games gave us that opportunity to do that,” said Haley. “And to overcome the last-minute loss in game one and play so well in game two, that type of adversity needs to be faced and I’m glad we had that opportunity.”
Their next opponent is definitely a worthy one, as the Guelph Gryphons finished the season in first place with a 20-6 record. They also prevented Brock from scoring a single goal in their first round sweep of the Badgers.
Emma Low-A-Chee, a third-year Rams forward, said her team won’t be intimidated by Guelph and is rather excited to get things going.
“Seeding doesn’t really matter to us, it’s just another team we look forward to playing against,” said Low-A-Chee. “We know we can beat them as we did in the regular season, so the girls are just really excited to be playing against them.”
Despite splitting the season series against Guelph, Haley said she thinks her team needs to approach the semifinals with a “fresh start” mentality, considering the added intensity of the playoffs.
“The first thing we need to do is forget about what happened during the regular season,” said Haley. “Regular season hockey is completely different than playoff hockey so we’re not fooled by the fact we split with them. We know they are a very veteran team, very experienced (eight graduating players), with Valerie Lamenta in net, who has been a CIS player of the year.”
“I think we need to play a real sound defensive game against them and be opportunistic. They’ve got some great goaltending so we’re going to need to find a way to capitalize on our chances and try to play as close to a perfect game as we can.”
Low-A-Chee says she isn’t surprised this is the group to finally get the Rams a playoff series win.
“I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a group of girls than I am with this team,” said Low-A-Chee. “I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow and play all year and we have a lot of potential. We all worked really hard for this and it’s nice to see it really paying off for us.”
Haley says she is glad her team was able to go through this, as it gives them added experience and extra preparation moving forward.
“What it really gives us is some experience. We’re a relatively young team, with a lot of first and second-year eligible players playing some key moments mixed in with some of our vets,” said Haley. “Guelph is going to have to face some adversity too. Whether we can provide that or not remains to be seen but being in those moments and being successful is huge. We know it’s going to happen again and we’ll be all the better prepared for it.”
Looking back on their historic win against Queen’s, Low-A-Chee says she is convinced this is just the beginning for her team.
“I never had any doubt we’d be making history this year and this is just the first of many records to be broken by women’s hockey,” said Low-A-Chee.