TORONTO - The Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team enter the 2012-13 season with high expectations following a successful campaign last year.
The Rams finished 2011-12 with a 13-12-3 record. The 13 victories tied the teams mark for wins in a season set by the 1988-89 Rams, who were 13-12-1. The Rams also recorded 29 points in the regular season and that was the most recorded in a single season by a Ryerson hockey team. Last season was also the first time in 23 years that the team has posted a winning record.
However, an early exit last year in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the Université de Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes was not lost on some players. The Rams lost two games to one in the best of three OUA quarter-finals.
“I think (the loss) is a huge motivator,” said Greg Payne, a fifth-year right-winger from Thornhill, Ont. “We saw them (UQTR) go to nationals, and we know we can stick with them this year,” said Payne, who had 22 points last season to tie for the team lead in scoring with captain Andrew Buck.
For the first time in a few years, head coach of the team, Graham Wise, also has a core group of returning players to build his team around. Twenty players will return from last year’s team.
“Amongst that core group, they’ve had experience in the league now. They know what it takes to be successful,” said Wise, who is entering his seventh season as bench boss. “They’ve had a taste of the playoffs and obviously they want to go further. We’re a team that feels pretty confident in themselves, and hopefully we get some success early and move forward.”
One of the main issues that has surrounded Ryerson men’s hockey teams over the past few seasons has been the constant trips to the penalty box. Last season was no different. The team had a total of 675 penalty minutes which was the fourth most in the entire CIS.
This is something that the team looks to change for this season, “We have to watch for the little things like the hooking and tripping penalties from last year,” said Mark Corbett, a sophomore defenceman who spent time on the Rams special teams units in 2011-12.
“Being in our league, which is so close, special teams is where a lot of the scoring comes from. I think that hurt us last year,” said Corbett.
Payne echoed his teammates statements, “We have to stick to our game. We know we took a lot of penalties last year, we need to be a lot more disciplined,” said Payne.
The team has added seven new players, highlighted by recruits Michael Fine, Daniel Lombardi and Kent McPherson. Fine, a right-winger from Toronto, played last season with the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and had his best offensive campaign. Fine recorded 22 goals and 45 assists for a total of 67 points in 68 games with the Spirit.
Lombardi, a 5’9” left-winger from Richmond Hill, Ont., is coming over from the Windsor Lancers where he played nine games in the 2010-11 season.
McPherson spent last season with the Trenton Golden Hawks of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). A league all-star and team captain, he finished the year with 18 goals.
The Rams also sees themselves with a good problem on their hands. Ryerson has three goalies on their roster that could all potentially be starters. Last season, Troy Passingham (Mississauga, Ont.) played in 24 games and posted a 9-14 record. Steve Gleeson (Toronto), who spent time in the OHL and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) before joining the Rams, and Louie George (Waterloo, Ont.), who has CIS experience, will both compete with Passingham for playing time.
“It’s a good situation to be in. The unfortunate thing is that only one of the goalies can play. We’ll make our decisions weekly as to how our goalies are going and we’ll go accordingly,” said Wise.
With all the hype surrounding the opening of the Mattamy Athletic Centre at the Gardens, the Rams will look to produce a roster that will look to compete for a spot in the 2013 Potash Corp University Cup, held this year in Saskatoon, Sask.
“We want home ice advantage (for the playoffs) and play as many games at the Gardens as possible,” said Brian Birkhoff, a second-year defenceman and member of the 2011-12 OUA East all-rookie team. “I think our biggest goal is to win every single game here at home,” said Birkhoff.
Ryerson opens the season with a road trip to Kingston this weekend. The Rams visit Queen's Friday (7:30pm) before playing at RMC on Saturday (7:00pm). The home opener is scheduled for Friday, October 19 at Mattamy Home Ice versus Queen's.