Undefeated Stingers push for varsity status

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Thanks in part to a new addition on the coaching staff, the women’s hockey team is making a strong case for a spot to compete in the big leagues. Alan Hudes reports
Seven games into the 2010- 2011 season, one thing is clear. The Stingers are for real.

Over the past two weeks, Ryerson’s women’s hockey team has cruised to back-to-back 6-0 victories over the Mississauga Wolves and the Brampton Cougars, extending their undefeated record to 6-0-1.

“The team’s playing really well right now,” assistant coach Don Ruta said. “We’re making up for all those losses that we had last year.”

The Stingers can partly credit early season success to the newest member of their coaching staff, who shortly into the season, has already left her mark. Michelle Janus came to the Stingers this year as the team’s skills coach, after previously coaching in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.

“[Head coach Stephanie White] thought that my skill level would go pretty well with this club,” Janus said.

“Turns out it probably wasn’t a bad idea.”

Although they are barely a third of the way into their 24 game season, the Stingers, who managed to win only two games last season, are clearly benefitting from Janus’ expertise.

Since her arrival this offseason, the Stingers lead their division in goals scored, 29, goals against, 4, in addition to boasting the leagues top three scoring leaders on their active roster.

“She’s taken over the full practices and is putting her own ideas into [them],” said fourth-year center Tessa Dimitrakopoulos, who is tied for the team lead in goals with nine. “She adds a different element.”

Janus’ persistence and handson coaching style has given the Stingers an aggressive style of play that has helped shape the team’s identity.

“She likes to pull players aside and talk to them about what they need to work on,” second-year defenseman Megan Higgins said. “She’s very approachable and she doesn’t mind staying [after practice] to work on things.”

The timing of Janus’ arrival could not have come at a better time. The Stingers currently play in the Golden Blades Women’s Hockey League, a competitive women’s league based at York University.

However, they are looking to compete as a varsity team in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) next year. Given the preparation required for that leap, Janus feels the team has come a long way since her arrival.

“I expected a CIS-ready team when I first got here, [but] I had to take a bit of a step back and start from the basics,” admitted Janus. “Now, [the players] are miles ahead of where they started back in September. They exceed my expectations every practice.”

Janus said that in spite of their strong start, a lot more work is still needed to achieve their goal. “You show up, you put your skates on and you [get back] to work.”

Photo: Alan Hudes

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