By Michael Mazzei
Following a tough 2016-2017 campaign, the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team is looking to prove to the rest of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) teams that they are a legitimate threat to compete for a playoff spot.
Last season, the Rams had a difficult run. Heading into the new year, Ryerson had a respectable record of 5-5-3, with the postseason well in sight. But as the semesters changed, so did the team’s fortunes, and Ryerson ambled down the stretch, winning only twice in their final 12 games.
For the second straight season the Rams missed the playoffs, and coach Lisa Haley–now in her sixth season at the helm–says the team took the second-half struggles as a learning experience, albeit a major disappointment.
“I think we learned a lot about how to lay out the season in terms of the first semester and second semester,” she said. “Really, it is two seasons with the September section and the push in January.”
Though the Rams struggled last year to produce wins, there were a few bright spots that now give the squad hope heading into the new season. One of them was the offensive talent of Kryshanda Green, who led the team in scoring with 10 goals, 10 assists and 20 points in 24 games played.
“I was surrounded by a great group of people from my coaching staff to my teammates who motivated me all season,” said Green, now entering her third season with the Rams.
The play of Sydney Authier, the team’s starting goaltender, also provides some optimism for what’s to come for Ryerson this season. Although she finished with a 7-12 record, Authier mustered up a .914 save percentage and a solid 2.14 goals against average.
Despite the Rams’ struggles down the stretch, Authier said she was most impressed by the team’s perseverance.
“Seems like every year we are faced with a lot of adversity whether it is injuries or offensive struggles, but we never stop battling,” she said. “We had a tough second half where it seemed like we couldn’t buy a goal but we kept working and battling day in and day out.”
New Faces, New Hope
There will be a lot of new faces in the Rams locker room as two transfer students and seven rookies, including former Carabins de Montreal goalie Fanny Vigeant, are set to make their Ryerson debuts.
“I really love the place and the atmosphere here,” said Vigeant. “I was looking for a university where I would be able to grow as an athlete as well as a student and, to me, Ryerson is definitely that kind of place.”
Along with Vigeant, the newest members of the Rams are Julie Patricio, Brooklyn Gemmill, Olivia Giardetti, Keelin Farren, Madison Lalonde, Teagan Gartley, Melanie Camacho, and Emma Low-A-Chee. The number of rookies and transfers joining is above average compared to other OUA teams, Haley said, but she’s not too worried about them fitting in.
Veteran forward Sarah McGilvray is excited to incorporate the newest Rams into the fold.
“We have a great group of new additions to the team and they each bring something special to the team,” she said. “They all have outstanding experience playing for past teams and they have already fit right into the team perfectly.”
McGilvray is one of five players who will be playing in their final year, providing the team with plenty of veteran experience. The team, however, has yet to name a captain for the upcoming season.
“We give our players an opportunity to give us some feedback in terms of who they see in those leadership roles, whether it be vocal, leaders by example, or players they trust,” Haley said. “We’ve taken the time during the exhibition season to explore that kind of feedback and we’ll name our captains heading into our first regular season game.”
Getting Back to the Playoffs
Haley’s pedigree as a coach is considerable, and since becoming the first coach in program history in 2011, she’s helped build the program from the ground up. In her 14-year tenure at Saint Mary’s University, Haley led the Huskies to four league titles, and in 2014, Haley won a gold medal as an assistant coach of the national women’s hockey team at the Sochi Olympics.
While that immense success has yet to be replicated at Ryerson, Haley is confident her players have bought into her system of dedication to long-term success on ice and off, and that the program will soon reap the dividends.
“Lisa has helped me understand the game better, especially my defensive play and ultimately helped me grow into a more confident person,” Green said.
While Haley’s guidance has helped form her players into stronger, more resilient people in their daily lives, the team is still eager to improve their on-ice record. The Rams haven’t reached the playoffs since 2015, and hopefully, Authier believes, this year’s team can end that streak.
“I definitely think this is a special group and we have a great opportunity to do some amazing things this year,” she said. “The season hasn’t even started yet and I don’t want to get ahead of myself but from what I’ve seen so far, I’m really excited to see what this year has to hold.”
“We’ve been training hard since the beginning of summer; we have new goals, systems and a very strong culture growing,” Green added. “We’re going to control what we can and push in every circumstance.”
Haley sees the upcoming season as a chance to show the league the Rams are a team on the rise.
“I think what you’ll see now is that we have just turned that corner,” she said. “I feel really confident about where our team will go this season and I think that it’s just the start.”
The Rams feel they are good enough to compete for a playoff spot. Now, they’ll have a chance to prove it.
Ryerson opens their season with a matchup against the York University Lions on Oct. 15. Puck drop at the York’s Canlan Ice Sports complex is set for 2 p.m.