Blues still looking for their second win. BROCK EDWARDS/THE VARSITY

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team returned home this week after a big weekend on the road. The Blues (1–12–2) had notched their first win of the season on November 18 but then fell 5–4 in a disappointing loss to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks the following day.

Wednesday’s matchup against the Ryerson Rams (11–2–1) saw over 3,500 elementary school students fill Varsity Arena for the Downtown Showdown Hockey School Day. The annual event gives young fans from the Greater Toronto Area a chance to watch the two inner city rivals square off on the ice. The game marked the one hundredth meeting between the Blues and the Rams since 1972; Varsity Arena was abuzz with excitement as the Blues aimed to secure their first home win of the season.

The Blues got on the board first when forward Matt Campagna fired a high wrist shot from near the blue line. After Rams goaltender Taylor Dupuis made an initial save, the rebound was mishandled, and the puck fluttered toward the top of the crease. Campagna gathered the loose puck and flipped it into the net over Dupuis’s glove hand, six and a half minutes into the first period.

The Rams, unfazed, responded 14 seconds later. Ryerson defenseman Alex Basso fired a wrist shot past the Toronto goaltender, Andrew Hunt, to tie the game at one.

There were many scoring chances for both teams in the first two periods, and both goaltenders made impressive stops to keep the score at one apiece. Hunt made a superb goalmouth lunge to deny a Ryerson 2-on-1 chance in the nineteenth minute of the first period, while at the other end Dupuis made a series of fine saves as the Blues came out firing early in the second period.

The tie-breaker came at 15:29 of the second. Ryerson forward Vince Figliomeni scored after the puck caromed off the back boards and onto his stick. His goal tipped the game decisively in favour of the Rams. Ryerson forward Matt Mistele potted a powerplay goal, and Aaron Armstrong scored twice in the period to make the score 5–1, his second goal coming with only 12 seconds left in the game.

The Blues hoped for a better outcome on Friday night at a considerably quieter Varsity Arena. They faced off against the York University Lions (9–4–2), who sat one spot below the first-place Rams in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West Division heading into the game.

The Lions’ quick start put them on the board early. York forward Greg Milner took a pass in the slot from teammate Steven Janes and deked out Blues goaltender Michael Nishi to score at 2:27 of the first period. The Lions’ speed overwhelmed the home team, creating a number of turnovers and odd-man rushes into the Blues’ end. The Lions made it 2–0 when a perfect cross-seam pass from forward Colton Vannucci allowed winger Kyle Campbell to tap the puck into the Blues’ net at 7:16.

The Lions continued to dominate in the second period, preying on the Blues’ porous defense. A tip-in powerplay goal by Josh LaFrance made it 3–0 a minute in, and 44 seconds later Campbell netted his second of the night, extending the Lions’ lead to four goals. The Blues’ offense did not help their team’s chances, compiling a mere eight shots over the first two periods.

A stronger third period allowed the Blues to break the shutout. After the Ryerson goalie failed to clear the puck, Blues forward Aidan Wallace buried it to make the score 4–1. The Lions responded quickly when their top scorer Derek Sheppard fired a shot that slipped through Nishi’s pads at 10:39. Sheppard’s seventh goal of the season capped the Lions’ 5–1 victory.

With the two 5–1 losses this week, Toronto’s record sits at 1–12–2, placing them in the basement of the OUA standings. After winter break and a string of road games, the Blues will return to Varsity Arena on January 15, 2017.

The Blues’ road trip begins in Ottawa, where they will face off against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (6–6–2) on Friday, December 2. 

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