Coming off of a disappointing 2010-11 season, the men’s hockey team lost two of their best players, but as Alan Hudes reports, 16 new recruits will be counted on to once again lead the Rams to the playoffs
After a sub-par 8-18-2 campaign, which resulted in them missing the playoffs, Ryerson’s men’s hockey will field a roster featuring several new faces when the 2011-12 season opens this weekend, as head coach Graham Wise recruited 16 new players during the offseason.
While this year’s team might not resemble its predecessor, a few players from the highly touted junior ranks will help make them more competitive. Some of the key names to watch during their first year are centre Jason Kelly, defenceman David Searle, and goaltenders Troy Passingham and Steve Gleeson, all of whom competed in the Canadian Hockey League last season.
While Wise recruited a number of young and talented players, arguably the most significant addition to the team is left winger Jason Cassidy. The Whitby native, who is completing his master’s degree at Ryerson, is in his fifth and final year of varsity eligibility, having played with the St. Thomas Tommies in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) over the past four years. Although a newcomer to the Rams, Wise feels that Cassidy’s experience at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level will be invaluable to his young team.
“[Cassidy] is very organized. He’s very serious about his academics. And he’s dedicated to contributing to the hockey team,” Wise said. “He’s got a lot of balancing to do in his daily life … so he’s a terrific role model for us and, as well, a very good hockey player.”
When asked about the nature of his leadership role, Cassidy says he already found himself giving pointers to his teammates during the pre-season.
“About four or five times a game I’ll just pull a guy aside and say ‘hey try this, or ‘hey try that.’ And usually they respond well to it,” Cassidy said. “I think everyone ultimately wants to get better as a player, so you have to be willing to learn and I’m the same, I’m still learning a lot too. It’s a tough game and you can never really master it.”
While Cassidy will look to fill the leadership role that was left by last year’s graduated captain Marcus Booth, Wise will have a hard time trying to replace left winger Matt Schmermund, who left Ryerson to play with the Augusta Riverhawks of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Schmermund led the Rams in scoring for the second straight year with 24 points in 28 games.
“With the recruiting year we had, having Matt Schmermund would have given us greater depth on the left side,” said Wise. “You look at not having him and then you know you’re relying on the younger guys that might not have experience.”
Although they will be without players like Booth and Schmermund, the revamped Rams will be looking to return to their winning ways of two years ago, when they made the playoffs for the first time in seven years and set the second-highest win total in the history of the team.
With a small number of games on the schedule, the Rams will have to make the most of their opportunities. The team believes it must be consistent throughout the 28 regular season contests if they are to have any hopes of playing into late February and March. After a lengthy losing streak last year, coach Wise is all too aware that it simply cannot happen again.
“Our biggest challenge is getting into the playoffs,” Wise said. “We’ve got to believe we’re good and we’ve got to believe we’re going to play 60 minutes of hockey if we’re going to win. We can’t drop six, seven, or eight games in a row. If we can build consistency … I believe this group of guys will help us get to where we want this year.”