By Devin Jones
With three weeks left in the season, the men’s hockey team is leading the OUA west division and setting school records. The Rams surpassed their previous record of 14 wins in a season on Jan. 11. They now have 18 wins in 22 games.
Head coach Graham Wise said the Rams’ goal is to end the regular season ready for their thirdstraight playoff appearance – a first in team history. But he insists that the team is staying focused and isn’t getting ahead of itself.
“We get [the players] to execute the [same] system that we’ve been using for a number of years,” Wise said. “We know what works, and have done a great job this season executing it.”
While the Rams were in the playoffs last year, they were unable to make it past the first round – losing 2-0 to the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes.
“Last year we expected to do a lot better than we did and I think going through that experience allowed us to learn what it takes to win in this league,” Andrew Buck, captain and fifth-year left-winger, said. “You have to bring it every night [and pay] attention to the little details.”
Left-winger Jamie Wise’s large offensive presence this season has been a main influence in the Rams’ CIS rankings. Wise scored 16 goals in 17 games and earned the CIS title of lead scorer while the Rams were ranked second for goals scored in the league, with 99.
Even though the team had to forfeit two games due to their sevenday suspension for drinking alcohol while on a road trip, the Rams are currently ranked number eight in the CIS.
“Our players’ effort, hard work and dedication [have] gotten us where we are,” coach Wise said. “They come to practice every day and work hard. That’s all you can ask as a coach.”
With the abrupt departure of starting goalie Adam Courchaine over the winter break, the spotlight between the pipes has now fallen on Troy Passingham – a third-year goalie, whom previously played for the Windsor Spitfires.
“I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to step up,” Passingham said. “As a back-up goalie you always hope you’ll get to be in the spotlight and show what you can do.” At the two-game weekend series split against Lakehead University, which gave the Rams a one point lead ahead of Lakehead and a two point lead ahead of Western University, Passingham was a crucial player. He stopped 30 of 31 shots – including crucial saves during a pair of 5-on-3-man advantages for Lakehead.
Although the Jan. 18 game against Lakehead propelled the Rams into first place of the OUA west division, they still have to fight hard to keep the title. Ryerson has played two more games than both Lakehead and Western, which means either team can easily surpass Ryerson.