After a season that saw them struggle to a 1-23-2 record, the Rams still face many challenges heading into the 2012-13 season. One of the issues that will need to be addressed heading into the new season is where the team will get its scoring production. Last season the Rams recorded a total of 35 goals and with leading scorers Kyla Thurston and Lauren McCusker graduated, the focus will shift to the youth.
Head coach Lisa Haley, in her second year with the team, feels as though the rookies will need to step up. "Looking at the exhibition games, our rookies have been productive for us. The fact that they're already stepping up and taking a role is great," said Haley. "I think with our team, it will be scoring by committee, and hopefully as the recruitment comes along this year and next year that the skill level continues to grow and that the goal scorers come by naturally a little bit more."
The new rookies will help support Melissa Wronzberg (Thornhill, Ont.) and her linemate from last season, Emily Rose Galliani Pecchia (Toronto), who are the likely goal scoring sources this year. Both Wronzberg and Galliani Pecchia have been dynamic in pre-season, highlighted by Wronzberg's four goal, one assist, performance against the Brantford Ice Cats midget team on September 15.
Rookies Samantha Pui (Toronto) and Emily Popelar (Toronto) will be looked upon to provide an offensive spark. Pui scored the team's first goal in their new home at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on September 9. Popelar led her Durham midget team in goals, assists and total points last season.
"All of the rookies are playing a regular role for us, either on the power play or the penalty kill. I think they would be the first to admit that the learning curve has been steep, but they've all embraced it in the right way; they've played with a lot of confidence," said Haley.
Already though, the team has been hit with some early injuries. The Rams top scoring defenceman from last year, Jessica Hartwick (Brampton, Ont.), is questionable for the team's home opener against Toronto on October 5. Returning forwards Paulena Jakarsezian and Monique Cornett will miss the home opener on Friday and their return dates are unknown.
To fill the void, third-year defenceman Victoria Arci (Woodbridge, Ont.) and rookie defenceman Stephanie Chiste (Nobleton, Ont.) will be looked upon. The 5'8" Arci is coming off a 2011-12 season that saw her given more playing time near the end of the year from head coach Haley.
Arci feels as though her off-season training has got her ready for this season. "I worked out five to six days a week for almost four months. I went to a few camps to get quicker, stronger, faster. I did a lot of training, working on my cardio and really anything that would improve my abilities on the ice."
Chiste played last season with the Toronto Junior Aero's and will see lots of playing time on special teams opportunities.
The Rams have also added a new face to put between the pipes. Newcomer Brianna Tremblay (Whitby, Ont.) has impressed so far, backstopping the Rams to a 4-0 win over the York Lions in pre-season play on September 27.
Having three goalies in the likes of Emma Crawley (Herring Cove, N.S.), Dana Carson (London, Ont.) and now Tremblay is a situation that Haley feels is a good one to have. "We had the intention of the exhibition period being where the goalies would separate themselves out. The last three games haven't solved much for us, and we do have a problem on our hands. It's a good problem, and certainly a better problem than what we were faced with last year," said Haley.
A new home and one year's experience will be a key going forward for the Rams in the 2012-13 season.
"That's just a good demonstration of where we've come in a year," said head coach Haley after her team's 2-1 loss against Toronto. "Now that we have some rookies that have some experience and players that are in their second and third years now, they're grabbing the ball and running with it and it's great to see as a coach and I'm excited about that," said Haley. "The future looks bright now and we're definitely ahead of where we were 12 months ago."
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