By Dream Homer
After a year off the ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a 1-3 preseason record this fall, the Rams women’s hockey team returned to regular season action on Nov. 5 with a 4-1 win over the York Lions. The team hopes its strong group of veterans and new recruits will help them become a top team in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) this season.
The Rams placed fifth in the OUA regular season standings during the 2019-20 season and were eliminated from the postseason in the semi-finals.
“The team has been putting in continuous work over our offseason to stay connected and in shape for the upcoming season,” said fourth-year defender Keelin Farren.
The team will also look to capitalize on the experience of its fourth and fifth-year players. They also have players who are in their fifth year of U Sports eligibility, but are actually entering their sixth year with the program because of the cancelled season.
With the addition of new players, including Brooke Michaud, Cailey Davis, Marie Toporowski, Saije Catcheway, Megan Breen, Payton Kerr and Jayden Lawson, they’re prepared to pick up and surpass where they left off.
“Their work ethic shows that they are determined for excellence”
The various new faces each bring something new and competitive to the group. Toporowski played for the Toronto Aeros for three seasons, Breen played for the Kingston Jr. Ice Wolves for four seasons leading them to a regular season championship and Kerr was a part of the Kitchener-Waterloo Rangers.
“Our new recruits are constantly working hard on and off the ice,” said Farren.
“Some of the recruits stick around with veteran players to get some extra reps in. Their work ethic shows that they are determined for excellence,” she said.
Farren added that the recruits’ drive to succeed has only motivated the rest of the team more to elevate their own game. The combination of high-level players who were previously a part of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League and a core group of veterans helps the Rams stand out in the OUA.
The team also has a lot of skills they will be able to capitalize on as the season progresses—specifically, their speed.
“Our players can skate and move the puck quickly with composure which is important in this league,” said Farren.
The OUA Eastern Conference is highly competitive and every game has a different level of importance to it. From Rams rivalries brewed years ago with the Nipissing Lakers or the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, returning players are ready to face these teams again and dive into the heat of university athletics.
“The most anticipated game for the team, especially for returning players, is going to be the [University of Toronto] games,” said Farren. “When we saw them last we left with unfinished business.”
During the 2019-20 season, the Rams lost five of six games to the Varsity Blues including in the OUA semi-finals before athletics were cancelled. When the two teams meet again, Farren thinks it’s going to be highly competitive.
“When we last saw them we left with unfinished business”
As the season progresses, the dynamic on and off the ice will be key for the team and their success. But as Farren explained, they have a high level of trust in each other.
“When we look around the change room, we see people that can execute their role. We trust one another,” said Farren. “That confidence goes a long way.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined the Rams, the culture created in the locker room has prepared the team for this season as they strive for success, teamwork and individual growth. The year off brought the team closer together by staying connected and keeping their excitement for the season up amidst the pandemic, according to Farren.
“The chemistry we have off the ice transcends into the rink which will help us on the road to success,” said Farren. “We know where we want to get to and we have been so close.”
The Rams women’s hockey team is off to a 2-0 start this season with a pair of wins over the York Lions. However, they haven’t played in two weeks and with long breaks between games, it’s like their season is starting all over again.
Up next for the Rams is a highly anticipated match-up against the Varsity Blues, who are currently second in the OUA Eastern Conference with a 3-0-1 record. It’s the first of four regular season meetings against the crosstown rivals.
The Rams will look to improve their record against U of T from the 2019-20 season and pick up their third win of the year on Nov. 19 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.