By Sachin Seth
It’s been three years since one of the best Canadian university hockey coaches in history signed on to coach the Ryerson men’s hockey team.
In his first year, Graham Wise guided the Rams to two wins, twice as many as the year before.
In the second, they won nine and recorded the second highest point total in Ryerson history.
But this year, in their third season under his rule, the Rams missed the playoffs for the seventh year in a row after a loss to the University of Toronto on Jan. 24 mathematically eliminated them from the post-season.
The team has only won four of 21 games this year and started the season off with five straight losses. Wise said the up and down seasons are because the team is still rebuilding.
“When I took over the team only had a 12-man roster. Now we have like 40 guys showing up to training,” he said.
“We’re a very young team — most of our defence is in their first year. We’ve even lost a couple guys because of academics.”
It’s been two decades since the squad has seen any real success — and most of the Ryerson community can barely remember the team’s 1989 post-season run when they made the second round of the playoffs.
Today, the squad is tied for last place in Ontario University Athletics (OUA), with just four wins and nine points.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks is also tied for last place in the OUA, and they only joined the league last season.
Inconsistency is something that comes easily to a young team trying to make its mark in a league full of bigger, more experienced players.
In November, the team played the McGill University Redmen twice in the span of just a week, winning the first game 3-0 in Montreal.
But just a week later, the Rams were stomped 9-2 at home.
And the losing streak continued this month when the Rams took on fifth-place Lakehead University on back-to-back nights, losing the first game by a score of 8-0.
The second game was much closer, 3-2, tied until late in the third period when the Timberwolves slipped one past Louis George, the Rams’ freshman goaltender.
“Lakehead was frustrating. Our season is like peaks and valleys if you drew it on a graph,” Wise said.
Team captain Kevin Krasnowski blames the team’s lack of mental focus for their inconsistent play this year.
“We have brain lapses here and there and you can see it in the games,” he said.
But inconsistency isn’t the only problem. Last year the team netted more than 90 goals, while this year, with just six games left, the team has less than 50.
“Obviously I think there are guys on the team that should’ve produced more in the goal category,” said Wise.
Krasnowski, a fourth-year centre, had 25 points in 28 games last year. But he’s been struggling on the ice this season, tallying only 13 points.
“I only have two goals this year, so I’ll take some blame,” he said.
But Wise has not given up on the Rams. He knows what goes into a winning team. Wise spent 19 years as head coach of the men’s hockey team at York University and leading the Lions to 11 division titles and two national championships. And he wants Ryerson to follow the same path.
“It’s a slow process to build a program,” Wise said. “But we’re scouting and recruiting our butts off right now. It’s an uphill battle, but we’ll keep battling at it and get it done.”