U Sports MHKY: Ryerson And Lakehead Prepare For Battle

After closing out the regular season with wins over York and the Windsor Lancers, the Ryerson Rams marked their spot in the playoffs, finishing second overall in the OUA West. With thanks to a great season upfront from Mathew Santos, Matt Mistele and many others, the Ryerson Rams, led by Johnny Duco, go chasing their fate in Thunder Bay on Wednesday.

Ryerson Athletics announced following the last set of games which took place on Monday that the Rams men’s hockey team would be taking on Lakehead in a home-and-home series to shine the light on round one.

Entering the OUA playoffs, Ryerson, slated at 20-5-2, sits right behind Toronto, standing tall in first place as they take on the Mustangs starting Wednesday on home ice. With a point total drawn at 43, the Ryerson Rams look to pick up momentum when the series commences in northwestern Ontario to the seventh place Thunderwolves with 29 points.

James Mirabelli/Lakehead Thunderwolves Athletics

The Lakehead Thunderwolves enter the series with a discouraging record of 13-12-3. While composure is important up front to get to a point where all systems are clicking, the task will be daunting for both sides respectively, fighting equally hard for the same common result.

The David Johnston University Cup. This cup, presented annually, is a national collegiate award in U Sports, this handed out yearly to the men’s hockey champion after battling to win it in a season-ending tournament. The trophy has been given and accepted since 1963 when the CIAU formed. Now known countrywide as U Sports, it’s a tradition of the game that also carries great honour.

However, to get there, these teams must fight for the championship label en route to the Queen’s Cup. The cup, most won by Toronto, was most recently won by the founding Queen’s Gaels. Fast forward to this first-round matchup where majority bets are on the Ryerson Rams, the team didn’t make it this far without several factors falling well into place.

Ryerson’s Taylor Dupuis in the Maple Leafs Legends Game (Ben Steiner/49 Sport)

Between the pipes, it sure has been tricky since back in September when Taylor Dupuis had gone down with an injury, this paving the way for a pleasant surprise. This would see Garrett Forrest make most of the starts in the fifth year’s absence, allowing the Rams to prepare for the future where Forrest gets ready to set in as their starter.

Despite this fact, however, Forrest finished the regular season with a 2.44 goals-against average. Unfortunately, his untimely replacement would be one of the lowest in University Sport.

While Dupuis is now healthy to play, he started on Sunday when they visited the Lancers. The former Sarnia Sting backstop is healthy and active for round one of the playoffs. While goaltending is surely important, so is the offence that takes centre stage, this done for Ryerson mainly with thanks to Devan Paliani, Jesse Barwell and Matt Mistele.

Ben Steiner/49 Sport

In three of the team’s last six games, Matt Mistele has combined for five goals for the Rams. As for Jesse Barwell, he slides into second behind Mistele with four. Sharing a slot with Barwell, Devan Paliani adds five scored in six games. These three are just a few that will be at their best come Wednesday night for Ryerson.

Santos and winger Matt Mistele both finished in top ten in the OUA scoring race. As part of their run to the postseason, the Ryerson Rams, at the time of writing, are currently ranked fifth from U Sports in the country. As well, Gregory DiTomaso adds an increase in offence to the Ryerson Rams’ back end.

As for the Lakehead Thunderwolves, urgently seeking to boost their standing, many eyes will be kept on Daniel Del Paggio, Tomas Soustal and Josh Laframboise. With the Thunderwolves finishing the season amongst the top 20 in OUA scoring, Del Paggio, Soustal and Laframboise finished in 11th, 13th and 18th respectively.

James Mirabelli/Lakehead Thunderwolves Athletics

Closing out the regular season with a home-and-home series with the Waterloo Warriors, the Thunderwolves lost on Friday, but bounced back on Saturday with a 3-1 victory. The one point secured on Friday gave them a much needed point to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Prior to their battle against Waterloo, the Thunderwolves came back from behind to defeat the Brock Badgers by a 5-3 final.

Taking a look back to November, the Ryerson Rams and Lakehead Thunderwolves split a two-game series, both with one win respectively. Funny enough, by a matter of coincidence, both games concluded with final scores of 3-2. At this time, Lakehead has the advantage with a 14-10-0 record in all-time meetings over Ryerson.

The Rams, now 20-5-2, return to action in Thunder Bay on Wednesday when they pay a visit to the Lakehead Thunderwolves with puck drop scheduled for 7:00pmET. The game, which is set to be played at Fort Williams Gardens, home arena to Lakehead, is available for viewing on OUA.tv with coverage to follow on 49 Sports.

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