Toronto Varsity Blues travelled to the north end of the city on Wednesday night hoping to do what no one else had managed to do this season — beat the Ryerson Rams.
Under the lights at Downsview Park, a delicious lob from Antonio Ajhert and a Harry Michelis strike secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory that put the Blues back in contention for a first-round bye in the playoffs and ended the home side’s incredible 13-game winning streak.
Toronto (12-2-2) is now three points clear of Carleton (9-1-2) in the race for second place in the OUA Eastern Conference. While the Blues have played two more games than their Ottawa counterparts. The teams square off on the final weekend of the regular season, which may determine who skips the playoff knockout round. Ryerson (13-1) remain seven points clear at the top with 39.
— Varsity Blues (@Varsity_Blues) October 13, 2016
Blues head coach Anthony Capotosto was delighted with his team’s response to a disheartening 4-2 loss at home to Queen’s Gaels last Sunday.
“I take satisfaction in the fact that we were able to make an adjustment from the performance we had against Queens,” said Capotosto Thursday at lunchtime. “I was very pleased about the way the team came out, the spirit that they showed, the determination and most of all, their willingness to compete.”
Striker Ajhert, goalless in his last three games, opened the scoring in just the third minute. His sixth of the campaign was a contender for goal of the season, chipping the onrushing Rams’ goalkeeper Praveen Ahilan from 25 yards.
“Scoring a goal like that on any pitch is a great goal,” Capotosto said. “(Toni) was very pleased with it. I was very pleased with his performance. I thought he did a great job, specifically his work rate defensively.”
The head coach admitted to adjusting tactics and formation to combat Ryerson’s quality and it proved fruitful when captain Lukas MacNaughton teed up Michelis on the edge of the box to drill home with his left foot in the 37th minute.
If we get involved with any team in the OUA East, we know we’re going to be able to compete and we’re going to be able to win the game.
Ryerson responded immediately down two goals. Raheem Rose was tackled in the box and Rams captain Adam Hemati converted the penalty, sending Blues keeper Mark Rogal the wrong way. Despite being dominated in possession stats, the Blues held out for a morale-boosting win to end Ryerson’s hope of a perfect season.
“We knew that last night’s game was going to be a tight game and it was going to be decided by one goal,” said Capotosto, whose belief in his team was confirmed on Wednesday night.
“If we get involved with any team in the OUA East, we know we’re going to be able to compete and we’re going to be able to win the game.”
However, Capotosto, celebrating 10 years in the role, said he is not looking past this Sunday’s trip to Laurentian University, and that Carleton won’t even be talked about until the first hurdle is met.
“I think we’re coming off a bit of a high from [Wednesday] night,” he said. “We need to humble ourselves a little bit, make sure that the mentality is right, understanding that this is going to be a very difficult game for us.”
After losing 1-0 to Ryerson at Varsity Stadium a month ago, the Blues could be forgiven for feeling a little lightheaded today.