“I’m a student of the game,” is a saying that Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has long lived by in his pursuit of an elusive Stanley cup. On Wednesday morning at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, elementary schools gave their student’s an opportunity to become a student of the game. A number of schools took the day off classes to take in the subway series men’s hockey matchup between the Ryerson Rams and York Lions.
York was just playing for pride, but for Ryerson, they needed to get at least a point if they wanted to clinch second place, to set up a matchup with the Western Mustangs or Lakehead Thunderbwolves.
It started fast for the Rams, who got themselves a goal just three minutes into the game. At that point, the outlook was very positive for Ryerson at that point, but that positivity soon went astray. On the powerplay, a usual strong suit for the downtown school, the home side failed to organize themselves, leading to a shorthanded goal by the Lions.
York’s second short-handed tally of the season tied the game up, and another marker just minutes later gave them the lead. The second goal came from Brendan Browne, on a shot that Ryerson netminder garret Forrest will want to to soon forget. Browne’s shot sailed over the glove hand of Forrest on the near post, but with better positioning by both body and hand, the puck should have been halted.
2-1 york, with five seconds on the clock, everyone thought that’s the way the period would end. However, it certainly was not, as the duo of magical Matt’s put on a display of effort and hard work in. Matt Santos drove the puck into the offensive zone, and Matt Mistele finished the chance off, tying the game with less than a second to go in the opening period.
The goal was not only important to tie the game, but also to the morale of the Rams going into the break. One can only imagine how aggravated the team would have been going into the locker room if they trailed the league’s worst team. That situation was diverted, rather the Rams went into the locker room with good spirits, having been put on an equal footing from their captain.
Two powerplays later, and the Ryerson Rams had scored two and were up by a pair. The goals came from Hayden McCool and David Miller, with assists from Mistele on nearly every goal, he finished the day with four points, extending his lead atop Ryerson’s all-time scoring list.
In front of the school kids, York Lions head coach Russ Herrington decided to teach them a lesson. At 4-2 and on the powerplay, he pulled Lions goaltender Cole Ceci with 10 minutes remaining in the game. While the peculiar strategy didn’t work on the man advantage, it did just minutes later as the Lions came within one of Ryerson.
“I’ve done it before, and it’s worked before,” said Herrington, who has used the strategy since coaching junior, prior to his time in U Sports. However, the early empty net was one thing, but the changing of the goalie on the fly was another. “Believe it or not, I’ve done that before too, I don’t know what my players think of it, but it seems to work.”
Ryerson did not get a goal on the early empty nets, but they did score their fifth in a traditional empty-net situation.
Johnny Duco, head coach of the Rams said that he has never witnessed the early empty net tactic before, but applauded the Lions staff in continuing their winning efforts despite being long eliminated from the playoff picture.
With the 5-3 win, Ryerson has clinched second place in their division. The Rams will visit the Windsor Lancers for one more regular-season game, before hitting the road once again to take on the seventh seed in game one of the first round likely next Wednesday. York has now finished their away schedule and will return home for one last effort against the playoff-bound Laurier Golden Hawks.