By Alan Hudes
The Ryerson men’s hockey team is moving to the west division of Ontario University Athletics (OUA), as part of a realignment plan for the 2013-14 season.
The realignment was necessary due to the addition of the Laurentian Voyageurs as the league’s 20th team. The Rams will become the only Ryerson varsity team to compete in the west, joining several new divisional opponents including Brock, Guelph, Laurier, Waterloo, Western, Windsor and Lakehead.
Rams head coach Graham Wise says the move will benefit his team by dramatically reducing travel with fewer overnight road trips.
“We’ll be able to play some more mid-week games,” Wise said, referring to Ryerson’s close proximity to most of the teams in the west. “Those schools, we would probably host on a Thursday night.”
The realignment will also unite all three Toronto universities in the same group for the first time since 1986. The Rams will be joined by their downtown rivals, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, in switching to the west division, where the York Lions already play.
“It’s big to have U of T (move with us),” said Rams captain Andrew Buck. “Since I got here, that’s the precedent you set, and that’s who you want to beat, no matter what…there’s a pretty heated rivalry there. Hopefully we can develop that same kind of hatred and rivalry for York.”
The rest of the realignment sees Laurentian being added to the East division, alongside Northern Ontario rival Nipissing, while Oshawa-based University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) moves from west to east, where it is more geographically suited.
The regular season schedule will still consist of 28 games, but the format will be more balanced, much like the one used in OUA basketball. Teams will play two games against their own division and one game versus each squad in the other conference in a full cross-over. The top eight teams out of 10 in both divisions will qualify for the playoffs.
Despite leaving tough east opponents behind in McGill and defending champion Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) – who have eliminated the Rams in the opening round of the post-season the last two years – the team doesn’t expect the competition to get any easier.
“Now you’ve got to set your mind on Western and Lakehead, and you’ve got to get to that level,” said Buck, of two of the top three teams in the west over the last four seasons. “There’s no team in the whole league that you [should] think is [easily] beatable.”