By Alan Hudes
In hockey, timing is everything. Just ask newly recruited left-winger Cassandra Nasso.
Nasso scored a hat trick to lead the Toronto Stingers past the Barrie Sharks 3-1 in their Sunday afternoon season opener.
“I feel like a leader,” said Nasso after the victory. “I want to lead this team the whole season.”
That kind of performance isn’t just a game-saver — it is a team-builder that is necessary in setting a solid foundation in preparation for the team’s entry into Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) next season. The Stingers turned in sub-par results last year and know that this year has to be different.
“Last year, I found that as soon as we got to know each other, we started having better results on the ice,” said second-year defenceman Jenny Young. “This year we’re starting where we were halfway [through] last season. Our team is going to definitely be improved.”
The fourth-year team currently plays as the Toronto Stingers in the Golden Blades Women’s Hockey League, a competitive women’s league based at York University. With Maple Leaf Gardens set to be ready for next year, Ryerson athletics has committed to icing a women’s varsity team.
“The expectation is that we will go into the CIS next year,” said head coach Stephanie White. “That’s what we’re building towards.”
As part of the major change, the team would be officially granted varsity status, allowing them to compete as the Ryerson Rams against other Ontario universities. For some of the veterans especially, that thrilling opportunity cannot come soon enough.
“I’ve been waiting for three years to be a Ram,” said third-year defenceman Lee Ann Pallet. “I’m really excited. When I was in first year, the team was in tier four in the Golden Blades league, which is the bottom of the barrel, and we did extremely well. Now we’re in tier two and hopefully next year the CIS. Every year is a big leap.”
Several new recruits have been added to the team, with some having experience playing in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League. Coach White says they have the potential to leave a huge impact.
“We expect a higher level of skill from some of the players that we’ve brought in and they will help develop our culture as a team into a culture of excellence,” she said. “We’ve had nothing but positive support from the school, from the president through to our athletics director. We want to succeed. We’re not here just to be mediocre.”
In addition, the coaching staff has revamped the training program for the team to include position-specific practices that will help build fundamental skills. The continued growth of the program would not have been possible without the students who started the club.
“The reason this team exists now and the reason we have the opportunity to move into the CIS is because there was a passion for hockey at Ryerson and there was a determination with students at Ryerson to make this dream come true,” White said.
Photo: Marta Iwanek