By Michael Mazzei
After getting eliminated from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs in April, it was clear the Rams men’s hockey team was missing something.
Ryerson paced the OUA with a 22-4- 2 record but still couldn’t muster much playoff success in head coach Johnny Duco’s first playoffs behind Ryerson’s bench.
Now, thanks to a set of five recruits, Duco is optimistic about the team’s chances in the 2017-2018 season.
Steve Harland, Tre Folkes, Greg DiTomasso, Mitch Skapski, and Brandon Hughes will suit up for the Rams next season, adding talent and energy, along with the mindset Duco believes to be necessary for success in the OUA.
“All of the players we have added are highly competitive people with tremendous work ethic,” he said.
While they come from different junior hockey backgrounds, ranging from the Ontario Hockey League to the British Columbia Hockey League, each will arrive at Ryerson with the same goal of helping propel the hockey program deeper into the playoffs and perhaps, to a championship.
For Folkes, who will be studying commerce starting this fall, coming to Ryerson to play hockey and study was a simple decision.
“The facilities and coaching staff at Ryerson are above all,” he told The Eyeopener. “There’s no better place to play hockey and to study at than Ryerson.”
“I was fascinated at the fact that the program is run like a typical NCAA Division 1 team in the [U.S.] with how everything is run.”
Folkes isn’t the only player raving.
“[Ryerson] has a really good business program at Ted Rogers and the hockey program seems to be going on its way,” said DiTomaso, a future business student. “I’m hoping to add to the success the [hockey] program already has.”
While all the players were typically excited to join the Rams, each seemed especially intrigued to be coached by Duco.
In his first year, Duco made Ryerson one of the highest scoring teams in the OUA and improved their defensive game as well. This balanced style of play, DiTomasso says, made Ryerson an attractive destination.
“I like the way Johnny coaches with an emphasis on offense and skill,” he said. “This is what I like to bring to the table, and working with him will be great.”
Skapski, who will be in the creative industries program, echoed DiTomasso.
“I’m really looking forward to playing for Johnny Duco as he’s a passionate coach who’s dedicated to help players improve their game on and off the ice,” he said.
Just as the five players are looking forward to begin playing for Ryerson in the Fall, Duco himself is eager to work with them to develop their game and to help them become better players and people.
“We have made an effort to bring in quality student athletes who will have tremendous success on the ice,” Duco said. “More importantly, they will be contributing members in the Ryerson and Toronto communities, all while striving for academic success.”
Former Rams captain Michael Fine recently signed a pro contract thanks in large part to his success at the OUA level. Folkes, for one, would love to follow in his footsteps.
“Playing for Ryerson will help me achieve my goals and aspirations in hockey since there is an enormous amount of exposure around university-level hockey,” he said. “There are very skilled individuals on the team already and people in the past have been able to sign contracts after playing here.”
“I am humbled to see what’s in store.”