By Eli Shupak
Ryerson hockey coach Louie Carnevale believes his club will be much more competitive in the near future, despite the fact that the Rams currently stand 15th in the 16-team OUAA and will miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
There were no signs of a brighter future last weekend at St. Michael’s Arena where the Rams were shellacked 11-2 by Windsor on Friday and a 6-1 loss on Saturday to Western. The losses left the Rams with an abysmal 3-19-2 record with only two games left in the season.
It’s been a struggle all year long for the team. Rock-bottom hit on Jan. 24 when Ryerson was humiliated 11-3 on home ice by the Royal Military College, a tea, that’s perennially known as university hockey’s laughing stock. The Rams bounced back and tied Queen’s 4-4 the next night.
“Games that we think we can win we don’t,” said second-year Ryerson defensemen Anthony Sa. “Against teams like Waterloo, we come out to play because we know if we don’t we’re going to get killed. [It’s been that way] our whole season. [RMC] was our worst showing. I think that’s a game everyone on our team would like to forget, my worst outing in the two years I’ve been here.”
The last decade has brought nothing but hard times for the hockey program, but Carnevale is determined to put a winner out on the ice sooner than later.
The third-year coach had been working to lay the groundwork for a winning team. He says he puts 30-plus hours a week working with the team as its coach, GM and scout.
“In university hockey, you’ve got to have a foundation of players that are coming back from year to year and build on it,” said Carnevale, who is expecting to keep the majority of his team intact for the 1997/98 season. “My phone isn’t ringing off the hook and nobody calls me wanting to come to Ryerson. Everybody that’s here basically are players that we’ve had to go out and recruit. And that’s a full-time job in itself. We’ve got part-time coaches competing against full-time coaches who do this as their livelihood.”
Things took a turn for the worse last season when several players quit because of academic problems, leaving Carnevale in the unenviable position of having to start all over again. Judging by the results, things would appear to be getting worse as the Rams actually had a better record in 1995/96 (6-17-3).
“We inherited a program that wasn’t successful and we had to do a lot of things behind the scenes to make players feel they were coming to a program on the upswing,” he said.
Carnevale attributes last year’s troubles to players not being capable of coping with the demands of school and hockey.
“Players coming in today are 20, 21 years old. They’ve been out of school for a while and there’s a lot being thrown at them at once,” said Carnevale.
York University hockey coach Graeme Wise feels Carnevale has done outstanding work with the program he took over in 1994.
“He’s out recruiting and trying to get quality athletes into the program,” said Wise, whose club lost 5-2 to Ryerson back in November. “Any coach that’s out doing that is a credit to his team.”
Carnevale’s contract expires at the end of the season and he will meet with the Ryerson Athletics Department to review his past performance and more than likely negotiate a new deal.
“We are pleased with what has happened over the three years he’s been coach,” said assistant athletics director Chuck Mathies. “One of the struggles in the past was that we had to re-develop our core group of players each year. My sense if that a nucleus has been developed and the program is headed in the right direction.”
This has been a long year thus far for the Rams, with team captain and two-time MVP Ian Richardson graduating after the first term, leaving behind a line-up with 12 rookies.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs, win the OUAA championship and go from there,” said Carnevale. “A lot of things have to be done with the program so we can compete at that level. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a lot of work, but we’re slowly getting there and once it’s in place we’ll have a foundation of success for a long time.”