TORONTO, ON – The Ryerson Rams are playing with house money at their first-ever U SPORTS Men’s Hockey Championship.
After failing to advance past the second round of the OUA Queen’s Cup playoffs for 60 years, the Rams pushed past the Waterloo Warriors before falling to the Brock Badgers in the semifinal and beating McGill in the bronze medal game.
They enter the tournament as the seventh seed and take on the high-powered UNB Reds.
Led by head coach Johnny Duco, the Rams enter the tournament as massive underdogs, especially facing a UNB team that ranked first in Canada for all but one week this season. However, the Rams could be primed to pull off an upset with the confidence of defeating their second-round demons.
The program got a welcome surprise this season with the emergence of a line featuring Kyle Bollers, Kevin Gursoy, Chris Playfair, and at times Elijah Roberts. The line, filled with first years, was not expected to do as well as they have, but instantly clicked and proved to be one of the strongest in the OUA.
Bollers led the league in points per game with 13 goals and 25 points in 15 games, 10 points ahead of veteran David Miller, second on the Rams scoring list.
For Gursoy, he returns to Nova Scotia where he played a season with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, and although the U CUP relocated from Halifax to Wolfville, familiarity will play to his advantage.
In addition to a stellar rookie group, the Rams have found success with their veterans, including goaltender Garett Forrest, who, despite looking shaky at points, has found his groove and played his best game of the season in the bronze medal game against McGill. Although he can struggle early in games, the Rams can play confidently knowing his presence between the pipes.
Another factor in their potential upset at the U CUP is fifth-year forward Jeremiah Addison, who came to the OUA after three seasons with the StFX X-Men, and scored in the bronze medal game against McGill. Drawing on his experience, the Rams will be able to approach the UNB game with some insight.
“He’s a veteran guy, and he knows that league,” Duco told 49 Sports. “I think if you look up and down our lineup, you have Memorial Cup winners, OHL winners and guys who have won championships at various levels, and we hope that [Addison] can lead the way.”
In addition to Addison, the Rams played UNB in two preseason games in 2018, defeating the Reds in one of them on home ice.
“We’ve played UNB in the past, and we know what they’re all about, and we’re going to need our absolute best to be in that game,” Duco said. “We’re mindful of how good they are and how talented they are, and we’re going to relish that underdog mentality.”
Everything must go right, but it’s possible
For the Rams to get past the quarter-final, everything will have to go right, including their penalty kill, which was stellar in the regular season, killing at a 93% clip. That being said, the Rams must stay out of the penalty box so as not to tire out their penalty-killing units.
While taking down the Reds is no easy task, 2022 could be the year to do it with the Fredericton-based school losing talented players in Tyler Boland and Nicolas Guay while also not dominating the AUS conference this season.
Ryerson drops the puck on their first-ever University Cup game at 12:00 p.m. ET on Friday, streaming live on CBC Sports.
Cover Photo: Ryerson Rams Atheltics