Lauren Nicholson only had one hope when she slid the puck into the bottom left corner for the game-winning goal Saturday for the Ryerson Rams.
“I just didn’t want to hit shin pads,” she said.
It was Nicholson’s second power play goal of the game 2:58 into overtime, completing an improbable comeback that lifted Ryerson past the York University Lions with a 3-2 win. The win extends the Rams’ winning streak to six games and the Lions’ losing streak to four in a row.
The win was Ryerson’s toughest of the season. Down 2-0 with under six minutes left in the third period, Ryerson had one last chance to salvage a result on the power play after going 0-7 with the man advantage up to that point.
Nicholson, having taken four shots from the point within the space of thirty seconds, took an alternative route with the clock winding down on the power play, crafting a nifty give-and-go with Ryerson captain Kryshanda Green to give herself an empty net to swing at to put the Rams within one.
With under two minutes to go, Nicholson was again at the centre of the action, handing the puck off to forward Olivia Giardetti, who drove to the net and fell face-first into the chest of York goaltender Lauren Dubie as the puck flew into the top corner to tie the game 2-2.
“We just keep pushing no matter what happens,” Giardetti said. “After goals [against], there’s always positive energy. No matter if it’s a dumb goal, if somebody made a mistake, we don’t let it affect us. We just keep going.”
The win was also the best performance yet for unbeaten Rams goaltender Rachel Seeley, recording 38 stops in a game where Ryerson was outshot 40-22. Sidelined for the latter half of last season and the beginning of this season with an injury, Seeley now has six wins in six starts, carrying the Rams all evening against York (7-4-1) to move the team within one point of first with an 8-4-0 record.
“She [Seeley] was the difference in the game tonight,” said Ryerson Rams head coach Lisa Haley. “It’s pretty tough to try to hold the other team at bay while your team is trying to make a comeback, and it took us 55 minutes to get on the scoreboard. So, that’s 55 minutes of pressure for her and, man, if she plays like that for us, I think that only good things are gonna continue to happen.
Courtney Gardiner opened the scoring for York 16:48 into the game. Her shot from the top of the right circle in the attacking zone zipped past Seeley into the top corner. Caroline Eagles also drew her first point of the season with an assist.
After a scoreless second period where Ryerson recorded zero shots on goal during a two-man advantage, York defenceman Taylor Davidson skated the length of the ice during York’s seventh power play of the game in the middle of the third, powering to a backhand into the top of the goal for her fourth of the season, putting the Lions in an attractive position to repeat the team’s 3-0 win against the Rams at Canlan York at the beginning of the month.
Nicholson cut the deficit in half on the Rams’ final power play in regulation time 14:19 into the third. Giardetti’s equalizer came at 18:20 after a long discussion among the referees as to whether Giardetti’s drive to the net should be called for goaltender interference. And although the goal stood, the refs still managed to rack up 16 penalty calls between the two teams.
“That’s the flow of the game,” Haley said. “I mean, I think everybody tries to adjust to the way the game is being called and sometimes that fluctuates. I didn’t feel at all during the game that we took selfish penalties or retaliatory penalties at all. It was just a hard game So, I’m fully proud of the way my team played today.”
Nicholson’s goal 2:58 into overtime was her fourth of the season, giving the Rams the day off Sunday to prepare for a road trip to Waterloo next week for a showdown against the Warriors (8-4-0) Thursday and the Laurier Golden Hawks (2-7-2) Saturday to close out the semester.
“We’ve got lots of ice bags flying around here today,” Haley said. “It’s a front-loaded semester for us with 14 games and only 10 on the back half. So it’s really important we take advantage of these next two games and get as many points as we can.”