By Harlan Nemerofsky
Despite having made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, Ryerson’s men’s hockey team has yet to make it past the opening round.
In an attempt to make a deeper playoff push, head coach Graham Wise spent the off- season improving the team’s weakest area.
Of the 36 teams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), Ryerson ranked 29 in goals against average at 4.89 and 30 in save percentage.
Last year’s starting goalie, Troy Passing- ham, who has played in all three games this year, owned the worst save percentage and the second-worst goals against average in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA).
“[What] we’re trying to improve on is trying to get our goals against average down [because] this hockey team has never been on the plus side of goals, against goals for,” said Wise.
In order to improve the Rams spotty goal- tending, Wise added fourth-year veteran Adam Courchaine, who has spent time in the OHL, ECHL and AHL throughout the last 11 years.
In 2012, the 24-year-old put up a sparkling 2.37 goals against average and .908 save percentage with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces.
“With Adam, you’re getting an older kid. Someone with maturity [and] someone with experience that should be able to step into this game and be able to contribute right away,” said Wise.
Courchaine hasn’t been able to play yet due to transfer eligibility rules, but he’ll be clear to make his first OUA start on Oct. 24 against the Guelph Gryphons.
While Courchaine is expected to make an immediate impact, Wise said he will stick with the hot hand on any given night.
“If someone’s playing well and coming up with the big saves when we need them and leading us to victory, then that’s how we’re going to operate,” said Wise.
Though the Rams won two of their first three games, early success hasn’t always worked out, as the team went 4-1 to start their 2010-11 campaign but only managed to win four of their next 23 contests.
The Rams move to the west division will have them playing rivals University of Toronto and York University as well as Brock, Laurier and Waterloo — providing more rest and less travel.
Though the level of competition is com- parative in both divisions, the Rams can now avoid facing the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières in the first round of the playoffs, the team that has ousted them in the opening round the last two years.
The defence will add three right-handed shooters from this year’s recruiting class, something that the Rams had none of coming into this year.
“If we’re doing set faceoffs we should be able to run them on both sides of the ice [now],” said Wise.
Brought in to add more scoring to a middling offence is former Kitchener Ranger Dominic Alberga, who already has seven points in three games, including the overtime winner in a 3-2 victory over McGill in the season opener.
“He’s been great for us,” said Wise. “It takes some time to adjust to this league, but so be it. Alberga’s fitting in really well.”
The Rams first line, led by graduating captain Andrew Buck, will provide solid two- way play while the second line, led by last year’s top goal scorer Jamie Wise, will pro- vide lots of skill.
“We’ve definitely shown that we can put the puck in the net, and I know that we can compete with anybody in this league so we’ve just got to put it together for 60 min- utes every night,” said Buck.