By Matt Vocino
The Ryerson Rams are coming off of a historic 2017-18 season—having broken the program’s previous regular season win record by recording 15 victories—setting a new best conference finish by ranking fifth in the OUA and winning the program’s first playoff game.
Although last season did not end the way the team may have wanted, having been bounced in the first round of the playoffs, there is no doubt that the women’s hockey team is heading into the 2018-19 season having established themselves as a program on the rise.
“Obviously we want to continue on that upward trend,” said head coach Lisa Haley. “We are really happy with our recruiting class so, I think our expectations are to take the next step forward which is getting back into the playoffs and seeing if we can get out of the first round.”
A veteran presence
Looking to build off last years success, this year’s roster will include a strong recruiting class that will look to help fill the gap left by four graduating players from the 2017-18 team of Sarah McGilvray, Alex Rodriguez, Ailish Forfar and Alyssa Connolly. However, if this team is going to be playing in late February, the program’s veterans will need to the lead the way, starting with Kryshanda Green.
In Green’s second season suiting up in the blue and gold, the Brampton native was dominant: tying for first in scoring on the Rams after collecting 23 total points (10 goals, 13 assists). She was also a reliable force in the late stages of the game as she scored two game-winning goals.
There is no doubt that “Krash” will be relied upon this season to continue producing offensively in the absence of former captain and U SPORTS Marion Hillary award winner, Ailish Forfar, who will suit up in the for the Markham Thunder of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). According to coach Haley, the fourth-year forward will once again be a part of the Rams leadership group, after donning the ‘A’ last season.
Up front, Brooklyn Gemmill is expected to be an offensive catalyst alongside Green when the Rams hit the ice. A freshman last season, Gemmill showed her offensive touch by finishing third in team scoring by registering 18 points on six goals and 12 assists. The criminology student also sat third in the OUA with four power play goals on the year and was named to the OUA All-Rookie team.
With a season of Canadian university hockey under her belt, it won’t be a surprise if her play reaches new heights this year and she adds more great plays to her highlight vault like this beauty.
With the departure of Alex Rodriguez on the backend, it’ll be interesting to see which blueliner will step up for the Rams and fill the offensive void this season. The two likely candidates will be sophomores Julie Patricio and Teagan Gartley, who recorded five and four points respectively last season.
Ryerson’s blueline also includes seniors Laura Ball, who has shown her defensive prowess in her first three years, and veteran Rachel Dowdall in addition to sophomore Keelin Farren.
Two of Ryerson’s three goaltenders will return from last season, starting with veteran Rachel Seeley who will definitely be seen between the pipes. During the 2017-18 campaign, her first as the Rams starter, Steeley posted a .920 save percentage with a 2.15 goals allowed average and 12 wins that included three shutouts.
Last year’s back-up, Fanny Vigeant, will also return this season after winning both games in which she saw action last year.
Newcomers to watch
The Rams welcome nine new faces to the 2018-19 roster, including one goaltender, three defencemen and five forwards.
“We are excited about the young players joining our team, as well as the players that are transferring back from the NCAA,” said Haley. “I think what they all bring is a heightened level of skill both as forwards, and D (defence) and as a goalie.”
Notably, South Korean Olympian and former UPEI Panther, Ye Eum Park, will be dawning the blue and gold this season to become the first ever international student-athlete to suit up for the women’s hockey team.
After competing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Park represented Korea at the 2018 World Hockey Championship 1-B, adding two assists in five contests en route to capturing a silver medal. Since she began training with the Korean national team in 2011, Park has played 37 international contests and will bring an increased focus and professionalism to the Rams defensive core this season.
The Rams will also add a pair of former Toronto Aeros in goaltender Natalie Thompson and forward Natalie Pantaleo.
Last season, the duo lead their club to both a PWHL and Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) Championships before committing to Ryerson. Pantaleo netted 26 points in 38 games last season, while Thompson, a highly recruited goaltender and PWHL Goaltender of the Year, will battle for playing time in the crease this season.
The pair will also be joined by another Aero, Camryn Tait. The Toronto native transferred to Ryerson ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, after spending last season with the Division 1 Providence College. Tait brings an offensive flair to the Rams, as well as a winning pedigree, having captured a PWHL title, OWHA championship and U18 National Championship with Team Ontario.
Keys to success
If the Rams are going to have success this season, they will need to continue their strong special teams play from a season ago. During the 2017-18 campaign, Ryerson’s powerplay ranked second in the OUA and was a big part of their turnaround from the previous season. On the flipside, the Rams penalty kill finished 12th in the OUA, although it greatly improved as the season progressed, killing off 30 of 33 penalties over their final eight regular season contests.
If the Rams can keep clicking with the man advantage, and they can continue to improve on last year’s late season penalty kill success, it’s fair to say that this club will win games.
However, Coach Haley believes that the most important area of focus for the Rams that will determine the clubs level of success this season is their defence.
“I think our offence was pretty solid last year, where we really want to improve is on the defensive side of the puck as a team,”
When looking at the Rams lineup this year, it’s apparent that this year’s iteration of Ryerson’s women’s hockey team has the perfect blend of skill and grit, but the team’s depth is what has Haley most excited.
“We are four lines deep and have nine defence. I think our depth is really what is going to be our strength,” Haley said while thinking about her team. “Throughout our forward lineup we have kids that can put the puck in the net. And throughout our defensive core, we have nine defenders that are (at the) OUA level… same thing with our goalies.”
“I think our depth at all three positions can match up really well with any of the teams in our conference.”
The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team will open their eighth season on home ice against the Windsor Lancers on October 14, at 4:15 PM.
For up to date news and the Rams full schedule, click here