Toronto, ON- The U Sports hockey playoffs have already had their fair share of upsets in 2020, but it may not be over just yet. On Wednesday night in Toronto, the Toronto Varsity Blues, the number one seed in women’s hockey, fell to the Ryerson Rams who finished in fifth. It was just game one, but it was still a statement by a ryerson team who has improved immensely in recent years.
However, despite the Rams winning the series-opening game, it did not look like they would do so throughout the first period. The Varsity Blues were faster, stronger and just more skilled. Overall, it seemed Toronto was just the better hockey team. It did not help that nerves had seemed to get to the Ryerson players, especially defenders who were giving away pucks like Oprah Winfrey gave away cars. Well, at least that’s how the opening minutes of the game went. Soon though, everything would change.
Ryerson, who had been unable to garner any sort of offensive opportunity throughout the opening moments, found a goal on their first shot of the game. It took one player in one moment of pure excellence to light a fire under the Rams who went on to play a completely different hockey game than what was first on display.
That aforementioned moment was when Avery Horlock, a product of Pickering, Ontario, threaded the puck through a trio of Toronto defenders before sending it over the shoulder of Toronto netminder Erica Fryer in blistering fashion. The goal, as seen below, was the single moment where the entire identity of the game changed.
From that point on, the Ryerson Rams had a skip to their step and appeared that they were going to win the game. With seven minutes left in the first period, U of T brought out one of the best duos in all of U Sports, the De Serres sisters, who linked up nicely to tie the game. There is just something about siblings on the same team that seem to work, almost as if they have similar DNA or something (sarcasm). Either way, the De Serres sisters are elite hockey players who are key to the success of Toronto and continue to prove that in each game they play.
While the goal tied the game for a little while, the Rams found soon responded with a hard-working goal from the captain and senior Kryshanda Green who potted her own rebound after driving the play to the net. Her goal brought the Rams, who were subpar to start the period, to the locker room with momentum in their pocket.
The second period was much of the same as the way that the first ended. Ryerson kept up the pace of play which they showed throughout the second half of the first and added another quick shot goal to pad their lead. Lauren Nicholson picked up a puck and quickly fired it on the net where she caught the Toronto goaltender by surprise and the first time that Fryer saw the puck was when she was picking the puck out of the back of her net.
Ryerson did find themselves in the both for four minutes in the second portion of the game but easily killed off each of them en route to carrying a two-goal lead into the second break of the evening.
The second period has been a section of focus for Ryerson head coach Lisa Haley, who was pleased with how her team handled that frame. Also in her post-game media availability, she spoke to Hayden Godfrey of The Eyeopener about the sizeable crowd of Ryerson fans who were on location to witness the Rams win. “We’ve got the best fans in the league if you ask me,” Rams head coach Lisa Haley said and it was on good display as Ryerson chants were a common sound at Varsity Arena on Wednesday evening.
There was a clear focus in the third period as Ryerson did their best to just put the game away. Toronto found a goal to make things exciting, however, the Rams thwarted pressure through the last few minutes to secure their Game One win.
Actually winning a game in the semi-finals is a first for the Rams who made the final in 2019, but were unable to win a game. It’s an important block in the history of the program which has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. A win in game two or three will send them to their first McCaw Cup Final as well as their first berth in a national championship, meanwhile, also providing U Sports fans with another upset in the 2020 hockey playoffs.