By Devin Jones
In the last 37 years, Ryerson’s men’s hockey team has never made it past the semifinals.
Even with a team that nearly doubled last season’s 14-win performance, the Rams fell prey to this historical barrier on Feb. 28 when a 5-1 semifinal loss to the Lakehead University Thunderwolves ended their season.
“We played an uphill battle all night,” Rams head coach Graham Wise said. “They unfortunately got on the board first.” In spite of the disappointing loss, this marked the Rams’ best performance in the last decade.
But that success didn’t come without a few major bumps along the way. Their high-powered start to the season came to a screeching halt due to a seven-day suspension they were handed for drinking alcohol while on a team road trip. The Rams had to forfeit two games during their suspension, but managed to come back strong – ranking fourth in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division by the season’s end.
“We’ve come a long way from eighth place and I think we had a really good year for ourselves,” second-year forward Jamie Wise said.
Coached by his father Graham Wise, Jamie achieved a career-high 45 points – ranking him third in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS). His 21 goals this season – compared to the eight he scored last season – made him the second-leading scorer in the country.
Fellow forward Dominic Alberga also had a standout season.
A third-line grinder from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Alberga’s first-line rookie performance for the Rams was anything but expected.
Alberga contributed 44 points and 18 goals to the team. He achieved second place on the team for goals scored and is nationally ranked fourth in points – all in his first year as a Ram.
But as the men’s hockey team celebrates new talent, they also say goodbye to two of their key players. Both right-winger Dustin Alcock and captain Andrew Buck are graduating this year. Buck scored 90 goals in his 125-game career with the Rams and wore the captain’s patch for three of his five years.
“It’s a surreal feeling and I’m not really sure if it’s hit me yet,” Buck said. “I’ll miss not going to the rink every day and seeing the guys, but I’ve had a great five years so I can’t complain.” The Rams are ranked fourth in the OUA West division and made their third-straight playoff appearance for the first time in history. The last time the Rams earned a semifinal spot in the playoffs was the 2009-10 season.
The team will take some time off before the coaching staff begins the journey to next year’s home opener, a process head coach Wise said will begin with recruitment.
“Recruiting is ongoing,” he said. “Hopefully we can bring in guys that will make the team better and we’ll go from there.”
Jamie Wise, the Rams’ leading scorer and second-ranked in the country, on home ice.