By: Matthew Rodrigopulle
The crowd roared as Ryerson goaltender Fanny Vigeant made a tremendous third period save during a 5-on-3 penalty kill. But it wouldn’t be enough for the Rams in a must-win game.
The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team fought hard but ultimately suffered a 1-0 loss to the Guelph Gryphons in Game Two of the McCaw Cup semifinals on Friday, putting an end to their 2018-19 season.
Vigeant made 26 saves on the night but the Rams couldn’t get the offence going when it mattered most.
“I thought we played well,” she said after the game. “I think we did everything we had. They capitalize on their chances and they had one good bounce.”
Friday’s do-or-die game followed a 4-2 loss to the Gryphons in Game One on Wednesday. The Rams were coming in as the fifth seed in the playoffs and were hoping the home-ice advantage would help take the series back to Guelph for Game Three.
The game started off even-paced, matched by a strong offensive drive from both teams in the first period. Ryerson accumulated three minor penalties but were able to kill them off during the period.
As the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the period, both teams remained scoreless. Ryerson had 10 shots to Guelph’s seven, giving the fans a lot to be excited about heading into the second frame.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned for the Rams, however. Laura Ball’s tripping penalty at the end of the first period carried into the second, giving Guelph a 5-on-4 power play to start the period.
Just 21 seconds into the frame, Guelph forced a turnover off an unsuccessful clearing attempt by Keelin Farren. It resulted in a barrage of messy rebounds and Gryphons’ forward Claire Merrick was able to score the opening goal.
The Rams continued to press in the second, generating a couple of odd-man rush opportunities, but to no avail. The period ended with the same score and the Gryphons outshooting Ryerson 20-16.
While the Rams kept the pressure on the Gryphons in the opening minutes of the third period, Ryerson took two penalties within a minute of each other. A cross-checking penalty from captain Kryshanda Green and a delay of game penalty from Keelin Farren, resulting in a Guelph a 21-second 5-on-3 power play.
The Gryphons were incredibly close to scoring, but a string of spectacular saves by Vigeant kept the Rams in this high-pressure game.
“I just wanted to give my team a chance to win,” she said on the play. “That’s the only thing I was thinking about in those moments.”
While Vigeant did her part during that penalty kill, the Rams offence just could not get one past Gryphons goaltender Valerie Lamenta, who picked up her third shutout of the playoffs with 28 saves. In contrast, Vigeant recorded 26 saves on 27 shots.
Rams Coach Lisa Haley says Lamenta is the best goalie in the country, who led the OUA in save percentage and goals against average this season.
“We thought we got some of the looks that we needed, we just obviously weren’t able to capitalize,” she said. “At the end of the day, we threw everything that we could at her and she’s a hell of a goalie.”
The Rams ended their season on a bittersweet note. Despite bowing out in the semi-finals, the team could proudly say that this season proved to be a successful one.
“Obviously this team wanted a whole lot more…but it will pay off,” she said. “Last year was a huge step. This year was another huge step.”
“At the end of the day, it’s the culture that this program is built on and all the credit goes to the players because of their belief in it.”
Defenceman Laura Ball says the bonds she holds with this team assures her that this is just the beginning.
“This team is not just a team, they’re a bunch of sisters and I think that’s what helps pull through a lot of things,” an emotional Ball said. “The bond we have as a team on and off the ice is definitely something that makes us persevere and we came up just a little bit short today but I have no doubt that this team is going to continue what they’re doing.”
“We do have a large core that’s left behind that I think is going to pull together next year and do something special.”