One of the most anticipated series of the month took place this weekend, when the No. 8 Ryerson Rams traveled north to Thunder Bay to face the No. 9 Lakehead Thunderwolves with first place in the OUA West on the line.
After Lakehead squeaked out a 4-3 Friday win on a Ryan Magill goal with just twenty-three seconds left in regulation, Ryerson came out insistent that they wouldn’t go home without splitting the series, blowing out the home side on Saturday 7-1 in front of over 2,500 fans.
It was obvious the Rams felt this grudge match was a must-win, as they came out flying and it didn’t take long for them to get on the board. The nation’s top point-getter and goal-scorer, Jamie Wise, ripped a hard slapshot top shelf to put Ryerson up just over four minutes in.
Less than two minutes later, Ryerson continued to buzz. Lakehead’s Justin McDonald stopped attempts by both Andrew Buck and Mark Corbett, but Jason McDonough continued to work and was able to bang home a rebound to give the Rams the early 2-0 lead. Not wanting things to spiral out of control, Lakehead used their timeout just 6:17 into the game.
The timeout cooled Ryerson’s attack, and back-to-back penalties gave the Thunderwolves over a minute of play with a two-man-advantage and a great opportunity to win back momentum. They were unsuccessful, and less than a minute after the second period ended, Buck fired a blistering slapshot, beating McDonald and giving the Rams the quick three-goal lead, which they took into the first intermission.
The second started rather slowly considering the offensive overload of the first, but some penalty trouble midway through the period gave Lakehead another great opportunity to chisel into the lead. McDonough went for a cross-checking minor, and then a minute later both Wise and Brian Birkhoff were also given cross-checking penalties at the same time, giving Lakehead a full two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey and an extrended powerplay.
Again, the powerplay stuttered, and Lakehead were unable to generate any real chances without being stopped by Troy Passingham.
After the penalties ended, Ryerson finally caught a break, as Luke Maw took Lakehead’s first penalty of the game for boarding. His teammate James Delory offered some choice words for the officials on the call, and an unsportsmanlike misconduct penalty gave the Rams a two-man advantage of their own.
They wasted just 29 seconds before Kent McPherson let go of a one-timer from the point that rang off the post and into the net, giving the Rams a four goal cushion.
Three minutes later Ryerson was back on the penalty kill as McDonough picked up a high-sticking call, resulting in an automatic ejection for his third stick infraction of the game.
On the ensuing powerplay, Chris de la Lande fired a hard slapshot from the point that finally beat Passingham low on the stick side, putting Lakehead on the board just before the intermission. Ryerson carried the 4-1 lead into the break, and only trailed in shots 22-21 despite heading to the penalty box seven times to Lakehead’s two.
Lakehead took a quick trip to the sin bin early in the third though, and Wise showed off some beautiful patience cutting across in front of the net before sliding the backhander past McDonald for his second of the game, and putting the game out of reach.
The teams traded penalties throughout the period, and Victor Tereri scored off a great feed from Dan Lombardi to swell the lead to 6-1, before Wise completed the hat-trick on the powerplay with just a minute and a half remaining, giving Ryerson a whopping 7-1 victory.
Wise’s three goals in the contest give him 40 points and 19 goals on the year in just 20 games, while Passingham’s impressive 30-save performance gave him his ninth win of the year. Domenic Alberga also had an assist for the Rams, giving him 38 points on the year, good enough for second place in the CIS. At the other end, McDonald stayed in the Lakehead net the whole game, stopping 27 of 34 shots in the losing effort.
With the win, Ryerson captured the top spot in the West with 30 points, while Lakehead fall to second place with 29 points. The Thunderwolves do have two games in hand on the Rams, though, so they could easily find themselves back atop the division soon, but have a tough test ahead as they travel to Windsor for a pair of game next weekend. Ryerson are back in action with just a single game next weekend, traveling to Waterloo to face the ninth-place Warriors.
Join us next week for a late edition of the Game of the Week as we watch the Battle of University Avenue, when the Waterloo Warriors battle the Laurier Golden Hawks on Tuesday, January 28. Though both teams are in the basement of the West, the game has massive playoff implications as they sit just one and six points, respectively, out of a playoff spot.