2019-20 Preview: Rams men’s hockey hoping to breakthrough playoffs woes

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By Justin Walters

It’s the start of October, and we all know what that means. Yet another opportunity for the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team to deliver their first Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship.

Last year was very promising for the Rams, finishing with a 20-5-2-1 record in the regular season and first in the OUA West division.

However, the Rams once again lost in the second round of the playoffs, this time to the Guelph Gryphons. A Gryphons team that finished 16 points behind Ryerson in the regular season, defeated the Rams in 2-1 in the best-of-three series.

“Last year’s loss was tough, every year [that we lose in the playoffs] has been tough, to be honest,” said Rams goalie Taylor Dupuis.

A new season always provides a fresh start. Luckily for Rams head coach Johnny Duco, he’ll have plenty of firepower upfront.

Forward Matt Mistele is entering his fourth-year with Ryerson, posting a career-best 20 goals and 30 assists for 50 points in just 28 games in 2018-2019. Those numbers earned him Ryerson’s male athlete of the year, OUA West Most Valuable Player and being named to the U SPORTS First-Team All-Star.

The offence doesn’t stop, as second-year forward Mathew Santos joins him after leading the OUA in goals with 23 in his first season in the league. He was named an OUA First-Team All-Star, which was in large part due to his 12-game point streak through October and December of 2018.

“They’ve both got heavy shots and know where to put it,” said Dupuis. “It’s fun to watch, not so much in practice.”

You can’t forget about second-year forward Hayden McCool, who was named to the OUA West All-Rookie team, scoring 30 points in 26 games played.

Ryerson’s offensive prowess continues with Steven Harland, Cavin Leth and Patrick Fellows all combining for a total of 62 points. It’s a clear example of why this team led the province with 133 goals scored last season, 14 more than the next best team.

The Rams play a very offensive focused game which sometimes leads to a lack of defence, allowing 94 goals against last year, which was 13th in the OUA.

They’ll also have a big hole to fill defensively with captain Alex Basso graduating after five seasons with the Rams. Basso posted seven goals and 30 assists in 28 games while logging big minutes on the Rams blue line to conclude his final year.

“His on-ice skill spoke for itself but his approach to everything was just as special,” said Dupuis about Basso’s impact. “You can never replace a guy like Bass but I think we have a good group that we’re all excited about.”

With five recruits joining Ryerson, one of those players includes Aaron Hyman, a defenseman that joins the Rams after four successful years in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Rookie Aaron Hyman is no stranger to success, winning a WHL Championship with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2017.

“For the team, I want us to win a national championship, which I think is in reach with the players we have returning and the new recruits,” said Hyman.

Dupuis is excited to play alongside Hyman and describes him as “a good two-way defenseman who moves the puck well and likes to jump in the rush and create offence.”

With the confidence there, the Rams know how good this team can be. Now, it’s all proving they can break their playoff woes and get over the hump.

“We feel like we’ve identified some areas of improvement and are going to be looking to implement some of it throughout the pre-season and into the regular season,” said Dupuis. “The start of every season is exciting, and this year is no different.”

The Rams start their regular season on Oct. 10 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre against the Guelph Gryphons.

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