By Troy Langstaff
If there was one word to sum up last year’s performance by the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team, it would simply be historic.
They advanced to the second round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs for the first time in program history. Rams forward Erika Crouse earned the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year award and became the first Ryerson hockey player to ever win the honour. Captain Kryshanda Green set an all-time team record in goals (30) and points (64).
In a league accustomed to strong defensive play, leading to low-scoring and competitive games, head coach Lisa Haley was very pleased with how her team performed in close situations last season.
“I think one of the biggest factors in the success [of] last year was the recognition within our own group of what we’re actually capable of,” said Haley. “When games are tight and they’re being decided by a goal or a shootout…our team had that confidence to know that we do have what it takes to win.”
The good news for Haley and the Rams is that nearly the entire roster is returning, with only one player departing from last year’s team. Rams forward Kayla Karbonik ended her Ryerson career with 33 points in 77 games played over four seasons.
There’s now a surplus of players on the front end with Karbonik being the only exiting Ram.
“When we recruited those three forwards we were anticipating some of our fourth-year players graduating and not returning for a fifth year so it was a pleasant surprise to have [Kryshanda Green] and Karli Nummikoski back,” said Haley.
“It’s a little bit crowded on our front end for sure and our first-year players obviously have somewhat of an uphill challenge to find their way on a very veteran line-up.”
The Rams recruiting class includes four players coming from various leagues across the country. The addition of Abby DeCorby will provide a defensive presence on the back end while their new forwards Mia Morano, Alexia Ursua and Emily Baxter are expected to bring a new level of IQ.
Speaking of young talent, two Ryerson forwards were selected to participate at Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase in Calgary this past August with the U SPORTS All-Star Team. Crouse and Brooklyn Gemmill were rewarded for their outstanding performances this past season with a trip to the Prairies to face off against teams from Japan, Russia, France and Team Canada.
“I’m very proud of both of them, they’re both still young in their careers and they still have their best years ahead of them,” said Haley. “To get recognized for an opportunity like that at this stage in their careers is pretty special.”
The greatest advantage for the Rams heading into the season is their experience and chemistry which is only expected to rise. After having tasted some playoff success, the team is now poised for another deep run this season.
One big addition for the Rams during the offseason wasn’t a player. It was the welcoming of assistant coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Irwin. Starting her coaching career in early 2018, it shouldn’t take long for Irwin to translate her on-ice success into coaching.
“I have no qualms of her ability to teach and recognize because she thinks the game through at such a high level but [I’m] tremendously impressed with her,” said Haley.
“From day one she’s probably gone well above and beyond what I would have expected in terms of the commitment that she’s shown and the time she’s putting in to get to know the players and to get up to speed with how we’re doing things.”
Irwin brings experience to a coaching staff that already has a full arsenal with Haley entering her ninth year at the helm.
The Rams kick off their regular season in Oshawa on Oct. 18 against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.