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by Andrew MacLeod

Coach Mick Mitrovic is so confident the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team will make the playoffs this year, he’s betting his job on it.

“I’ll offer up my resignation today…if we don’t make the playoffs,” he said after last Saturday’s 8-7 pre-season loss against Carleton University.

Mitrovic has a big job ahead of him. The Rams had just one win in 28 games last year.

Mitrovic has completely overhauled last year’s team with 15 rookies and a focus on scoring goals.

“I went out for 35 nights straight after our season ended. I identified players I wanted and I went and got them,” he said.

Mitrovic cites Alex Butkis, Kevin Kraznowski and Scott Lee Johnson as rookies he expects to contribute offensively.

“This is the team that I constructed to play in our league, to play in our division, specifically against U of T, against Queen’s, against RMC, to play in this arena,” Mitrovic said. “It was methodical. It wasn’t going out there just grabbing guys with decent grades, grabbing guys who can skate.

“Everyone who’s in that dressing room belongs there, and they’re an integral part of our team going forward,” he added.

Mitrovic’s offensive style has gone over well with the players.

“We’ve got a lot of goal scorers, we’ve got size, we’ve got scoring ability, so we should be all right,” said rookie Troy Boudreau.

This year will be a new start for the veterans who made it through last year.

“From the training staff to the medical staff, it’s a total 180 (from last year). It’s gone the right way,” said veteran defenceman Grant Buckley.

“Last year we were splintered. This year the guys socialize together as a group,” Mitrovic said. “Here we’ve got a complete, uniform team. I’m not concerned about the chemistry in any way.”

The players say they same.

“We’ve got a great atmosphere. All the boys really click and that’s one of the biggest things on a hockey team,” Boudreau said.

Mitrovic’s interest in seeing this team succeed stems from his days as a student at the school.

“Ryerson’s a damn good school,” he said. “I have a passion for Ryerson because I’m an alumnus and I care about the program because I came from the program, and I’m tired of seeing Ryerson kicked around.”

Mitrovic sees a larger job for himself in coaching all the young men on the team.

“They’re student athletes first and foremost,” he said. “My first thing is to graduate them. The second thing is to have a good program so that Ryerson is not a default option (for recruits), it’s a primary option.”

The coach’s outspoken attitude has inspired the players to contribute as Rams.

“Mick’s our backbone,” Boudreau said. “He’s got the strongest focus out of any of us. He wants to win. We all believe in him.”

Mitrovic is clear about his priorities in turning a once-proud Ryerson Rams hockey program around.

“I know it’s wins and losses, but at the end of the day it’s the excitement that brings kids out to watch our games,” he said. “And it keeps these guys excited and it helps them believe in themselves.”

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