By: John Mignelli- Assistant Sports Editor
The Brock men’s hockey team (1-2 OUA Playoffs) took their three game series against the Ryerson Rams (2-1 OUA Playoffs) to the limit, losing by a series score of 2-1 in the first round.
Game one of the first-round series took place in the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto on Feb. 20. The game was a closely contested fixture, which took an overtime game-winning-goal from Domenic Alberga (Maple, Ont.) to decide the outcome – a 4-3 win for Ryerson and a 1-0 lead in the best of three series. Alberga’s winner was one of three points for him in the game.
Ryerson got out to a one goal lead roughly halfway through the first period thanks to a goal by Jamie Wise (Stoufville, Ont.) and assisted by Michael Fine (Toronto, Ont.).
Badger goaltender Real Cormier (Trenton, Ont.) was charged with the loss having stopped 42 of 46 shots.
Shortly after the second period started Ryerson doubled their advantage with Fine scoring a goal assisted by both Alberga and Brian Birkhoff (Richmond Hill, Ont.).
However, Brock answered just 38 seconds later with Matt Abercrombie (Sarnia, Ont.) opening the series scoring for Brock. Kevin Christmas (Hamilton, Ont.) and Mike McGurk (Hamilton, Ont.) were credited with assists.
A power-play goal by Alberga restored the two-goal lead for the Rams, but Jordan Gignac’s (Hamilton, Ont.) first of two goals in the game cut the deficit to a lone goal.
Heading into the third period, Brock’s objective was to find the tying goal to avoid an early deficit in the series. Fortunately, Gignac added another goal tying the game with just under six and a half minutes left.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, Ryerson prevailed in overtime because of Alberga’s winner and as a result they took a 1-0 lead in the series.
The series then shifted over to St. Catharines at the Seymour Hannah Centre for game two on Feb. 21. With a mediocre 6-8 home record, a sense of comfort in the home-ice advantage was not found despite an enthusiastic crowd. Brock was able to pull away in the third period and evened the series at one-win apiece.
It was a dismal start for the home team who found themselves losing by a score of 3-1 after the initial period. Fine added his second and third goals of the series in the opening frame while Steve Taylor (Sudbury, Ont.) scored an unassisted goal for Ryerson as well.
Momentum began to churn in Brock’s direction midway through the second when Abercrombie scored his second of the postseason with a shot from the point. Abercrombie received a pass from Gignac and fired it through traffic where it fooled Ryerson net minder Troy Passingham (Mississauga, Ont.).
Minutes later, C.J. Dickson (Thorold, Ont.) scored on a power-play to tie the game at 3-3. Sammy Banga (Windsor, Ont.) and Andrew Radjenovic (Hamilton, Ont.) were awarded with the assists.
An unbelievable sequence began next with Ryerson dishearteningly restoring their lead when Wise drove to the Brock net and finished only 30 seconds after Dickson tied the game. Incredibly, Abercrombie one-upped Wise and answered with a goal of his own a mere 15 seconds later. Abercrombie’s second was assisted by Banga.
Once again, Banga, Abercrombie and Radjenovic collaborated to score a power-play goal in the third, and Abercrombie sealed the game with his hat-trick goal a little over two minutes later. Abercrombie finished the game with three goals and an assist, while Radjenovic and Banga also had three points each.
Head coach Murray Nystrom said, “You rely on your leaders, and you hope that they’re able to rise when it’s needed most and I think tonight clearly was an indication of that. Matt’s been a great player for us for four years and it’s fitting that he kind of sparked the comeback and kept it going a little bit and it’s a recognition and in that regard it’s well deserved.”
He continued and acknowledged the ultimate game of the series by saying “Honestly I think these teams are so matched similarly… I think it’s fitting that this series comes to a final game.”
“We’re just going to have to make sure that we bring the energy and the play that we had in the third period for all three periods on Sunday to get through but it’s a fitting end to a real good series,” added Nystrom.
The deciding game of the series saw the action return to Toronto on Feb. 23. Ryerson got out to a 3-0 lead in the first period with goals from Wise, Robert Visca (Everett, Ont.) and Victor Terreri (Mississauga, Ont.). Radjenovic scored his first goal of the series but it was not enough to get Brock back into the game.
Lucas Froese (Grunthal, Man.) scored what would be the game-winning goal midway through the second period, unassisted.
After allowing three goals in the first 15 minutes, Cormier was replaced by Adrian Volpe (Burlington, Ont.) who also allowed three goals.
Brock lost the game 6-3 and saw an end to their season with the defeat. Dickson and Johnson Andrews (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.) added goals for Brock along with Radjenovic’s but they were ultimately not enough to prolong their season and carry them into the next round.
The OUA West saw no first round upsets as Ryerson will now play Lakehead (2-0 OUA Playoffs) in the second round of the OUA playoffs.