How Ryerson’s new women’s hockey recruits put them in OUA title contention

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By Joseph Casciaro

Ryerson Rams women’s hockey recruiting class is a talented group with a wide variety of skills. All the players are either a scoring threat at the top or a problem to get by on the blue line. 

The class is comprised of experienced players from Brock and Laurier universities, along with rookies from the Kitchener-Waterloo Lady Rangers, Toronto Aeros and Kingston Jr. Ice Wolves. 

“Every year the new players coming in have a level of skill that just continues to get higher and higher,” said head coach Lisa Haley. “I think we’re adding yet another layer of skill to our already great team.” 

The recruiting class includes Annie Berg, Jamie Watson, Megan Breen, Payton Kerr and Marie Toporowski. Berg and Watson are transfers, while Kerr, Breen and Toporowski are fresh out of high school.

All these players bring something different to the table, but Hayley said she is very happy with the class as a whole. 

Haley praised all the new players, complimenting the experience of U Sport transfers Berg and Watson. Berg played internationally for Team Canada and Watson was the captain of Wilfrid Laurier University’s team for the past two years. Haley also praised Breen’s offensive capability from the backend, Toporowski’s vision and Kerr’s tough play. 

According to Hayler, Kerr “plays with a lot of grit. I think she’ll fit into our style of play very, very well and she is very tough to play against.” 

Hayley noted that the three high school recruits will have to make bigger adjustments to the higher level of play than the transfers. 

“I think for the three high school players there is a little bit more time required to adjust,” Hayley said. “We’re fortunate we’re taking advantage of this delay in the set of our seasons to be able to work on a lot of skill development.”

One thing both Berg and Watson have in common is that, in their four years of playing, they have yet to win an OUA Championship. Both of them said that this factored into their decision to play for the Rams. 

“We’ve got to win a national championship and we’ve got the [work] horses for it,” Berg said. “I think letting [the fans] know that this is a talented team that’s gonna run three, four lines and all do something amazing.”

Watson said Ryerson had her favourite facility in the OUA, as well as “a very strong team that I knew had the possibility of winning a championship this year.”

They also both shared some admiration for the Ryerson coaching staff—specifically coach Hayley.

“I thought she was awesome,” said Berg. “She brings a lot to the team. She’s really good behind the bench and she knows how to get the girls going. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Watson commended Hayley and her assistant coach, Hayley Irwin. “I’ve had the chance to go on the ice with them a few times. They both really push skills and developing the game, and yourself as an individual.”

Both Berg and Watson are also assets to the team, bringing in OUA experience and more. They shared some of the wisdom they hope to pass on to their younger teammates that they learned in their four years of play. 

“I wish when I was younger, I had someone just tell me to enjoy [the game]. Like yeah, work your butt off, but take in those moments,” said Berg.

Watson said, “I think I can bring a calming presence and reassurance. Just being a presence on the bench to reassure them that they’re here for a reason, they’re making the right decisions and if they do make a mistake, all you can do is go out and make the next one better.”

The team has made some great signings and Rams fans can now only wait to see if this team can deliver. Coach Hayley had a message for all the loyal women’s hockey fans.

“None of us have a banner yet. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know what it takes to do that. I think everyone’s come so close, we know exactly what that next step is to look like and we’re pretty committed to try to do that.”

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