By David Morassutti and Devin Jones
Most soccer goalies don’t use the butterfly to help their team win a game. And most soccer goalies don’t lace up skates come October. But as Alex Armstrong will tell you, she isn’t like most soccer goalies.
As a competitive, two-sport athlete, Armstrong has been a member of the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team since the 2013 season, but due to injuries on the Rams women’s soccer team, Armstrong has also become their starting keeper.
“This past summer I was playing for a competitive women’s team, and then next thing you know I get a phone call and I’m playing for the [Ryerson] women’s soccer team,” Armstrong said. “It was actually my hockey coach Lisa Haley who approached me and asked if I wanted to play, and I said, ‘Sure anything to help out another team.’”
Armstrong began playing competitive hockey and soccer at the age of four, until the demands of a burgeoning hockey career increased and soccer took a back seat. Still, playing in recreational leagues and house league teams kept her love of soccer and her abilities as a keeper intact. This past summer, Armstrong played with the Erin Mills Eagles of the Golden Horseshoe soccer team. It was this competitive team that saw Armstrong’s passion for soccer manifest itself in an experience outside of recreational play. And Armstrong notes that it was this competitive play over the summer that made the transition to Rams goalkeeper easier.
What was only supposed to be a few games filling in for injured goalies has turned into Armstrong being named starting keeper for the rest of the season. But with the start of the women’s hockey season right around the corner, Armstrong has made it clear that when it comes to any scheduling conflicts between the two teams, hockey will take precedent every time.
“She’s helping us out, doing us a favour. But her number one priority is the hockey team and she’ll fit us in when she can,” said women’s soccer coach and director of athletics Ivan Joseph. That might mean limited practises or not playing in all the games. She’s a competitor and knows what it takes to win.”
Armstrong joined the Ryerson hockey team back at the start of the 2013-14 season, where she played in 10 games amassing a record of 1-7 with a save percentage of .918.
It wasn’t until the following season that Armstrong really shined. She had to be at her best, especially when the Rams were in the play-off hunt. Six out of the 17 games she played in were decided by one goal. Along with her fellow goaltender, Ally Sarna, they went 7-3-1 in the final stretch to help Ryerson clinch a playoff berth.
Heading into the playoffs, the Rams played the second ranked Guelph Gryphons in the opening round pushing them to two tough games. The first game ended in a 2-1 loss in overtime with Sarna in net. Armstrong got the start in the second game making 41 saves, but it was not enough as Guelph clinched the series in double over-time. After the loss, head coach Lisa Haley wanted to remind Armstrong about how much she had accomplished this season.
“I told Alex that she showed a lot of growth this season and she put the team in a position to win a lot of games this season, especially in that final playoff game,” said Haley, “We just have to keep looking at the big picture.”
With the Rams hockey season kicking off on Oct. 8, Armstrong is plenty busy with classes and the responsibilities that come with being a goalie for two separate competitive teams.
Catch Armstrong in net Sept. 16 against University of Ontario Institute Ridgebacks of Technology starting at 6 p.m.