First to one of the worst

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After making the semi-finals last year, the men’s hockey team has struggled to produce wins this year. Matthew Kennedy reports

This season’s riches to rags storyline isn’t quite over, but Ryerson’s men’s hockey team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the RMC Paladins in Kingston on Jan. 29 brought the team’s playoff hopes to a new low.

“It’s disappointing to lose against RMC, especially when our stat sheet says we put up 50 shots … the only thing that kept us from getting two points was a hot goalie,” head coach Graham Wise said. “We’ve just been snake-bitten at times this year.”

The Rams (8-15-1) made it to the semi-finals last season after posting a 12-13-3 record and started off the 2010-2011 season on a mission. To return to the playoffs.

After their first 10 games, the Rams only managed to post a mediocre 4-6-0 record that still managed to keep their playoff hopes alive. However, those playoff aspirations quickly took a turn for the worse as they proceeded to go on a 10-game losing streak over a 30-day span.

While there are a countless number of reasons for their disastrous losing streak and overall disappointing season, many people have suggested that the team’s home rink has done more bad than good for the underperforming Rams.

Located just West of the Junction, George Bell Arena leaves much to be desired, and is a problem that Ryerson Athletics Director Ivan Joseph is eager to see solved.

“Next fall, with the new arena in place, I believe we’re going to see an immediate impact,” Joseph said.

“It’s going to be easier to recruit, easier to practice, and just a huge boost to [the team’s] morale.”

The plans to move to Maple Leaf Gardens will stand to be a strong improvement for the Rams.

Instead of travelling 30 minutes to Keele St. and St. Claire Ave. for a home game, they will be playing in a historic arena a mere three blocks away from campus.

Andrew Bucholtz, an assistant editor at cisblog.ca, says the historical aspect of the arena will also be helpful in raising the team’s allure to young prospects all over Canada, seeing as how the team’s 25 man roster only features two players from Alberta, while the other 23 players all hail from Ontario.

“The marketing aspect, in terms of prospects and hard cash, are huge,” said Bucholtz.

“And probably most important of all, Ryerson fans will actually go to home games and home-field advantage is huge at this level.”

While the transitional feel of George Bell Arena isn’t an obvious reason for the team’s struggles, the many injuries that the Rams have been forced to deal with have played a more prominent role in their disappointing season.

“Injuries aren’t exactly rare at this level of play,” said Bucholtz.

“This may speak to a lack of depth on the Rams this year but they’re still a young team, and it’s easy to predict an upward trend for the next few years.”

Wise noted that while the injury to team captain Marcus Booth, who suffered a broken leg in early October, was a major blow to the team, that injuries are never an excuse for losing.

“Yeah we had injuries, but you’ve got to find a way to win somehow,” he said. “You can point to injuries, we lost some key guys, but that’s never an excuse. All it does is give other guys a chance to step it up.”

Injuries aside, the team’s statistics reflect their rocky campaign.

The Rams’ shooting and power play percentages currently sit at 8.9 per cent and 11.9 per cent respectively, both the lowest in the Ontario University Athletics East division.

Although these under whelming statistics are alarming, Joseph has full confidence in the team and its coaching staff and says he has no plans to shake things up moving forward.

“Coach Wise does a good job, it’s that simple,” said Joseph.

“He’s the right guy for this team, and he does great work. Couple that with a young team, and things look promising.”

To reach the playoffs, the Rams must win all four of their remaining games, while the rival Queen’s Gaels (10-11-3) must lose all four of theirs. The teams meet each other twice more this season.

Wise, who was named OUA East Coach of the Year in 2010 and is now in his fifth season as head coach, is just as optimistic.

“It’s baby steps, and it’s a learning process,” Wise said. “We always strive to get better, and we are.”

Photo by: Marta Iwanek

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