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Season preview: Rams look to build hockey dynasty

By Ryan Bacic

TORONTO – It is, once again, that time of year, Ryerson University. It is the time when the sport, that is so often integral to our national mythos, comes streaming back into the limelight with full force. It is the time when all the pre-season speculation, on behalf of Rams varsity enthusiasts, comes to fruition as fans are treated to the spectacle of one of the most exhilarating teams that Ryerson has to offer. That is right, Ryerson; it is time for the start of the hockey season.

And what a season this may prove to be. On one side of the bench we have a line-up of nine new recruits, acquired during the off-season, whose combination of skill and leadership abilities will only add to an already impressive Rams roster. And on the other side of the bench, we have the newly christened head coach Johnny Duco, whose tenure as interim head coach during the 2016-2017 season saw the Rams finish atop the OUA rankings, in one of the most impressive displays of hockey Ryerson has ever seen.

To begin with, the acquisition of new players onto an already established team must always be approached in a formulaic fashion. The outcome, if done correctly, can lead to a team chemistry that melds together in a fashion to create a perfectly organic substance that plays naturally on the ice. If said process is forced, however, it can lead to the creation of an improperly balanced composition that leaves visible gaps when put together. The choice of recruits that was made this off-season, however, was done to absolute perfection.

Maritime Hockey League champion and Fred Page Cup winner, Kyle Tibbo (Conception Bay South, Nfld.) joins the Rams offensive line for the 2017-2018 season. Tibbo joins the U SPORTS world a veteran of junior hockey in Canada having spent four seasons between the Maritime Junior A Hockey League (MJAHL), and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Across these seasons, Tibbo suited up for 223 games and tallied a total of 180 points. During his 2016-2017 season with the Truro Bearcats, the right-winger showcased an impressive display of skill, having racked up 88 points in that season alone, allowing his Bearcats to not only win the MJAHL championships, but simultaneously allow him to become the MJAHL player of the year.

Joining Tibbo on the offensive line comes another impressive winger, this time from the opposite side of the country. Mitchell Skapski (Abbotsford, B.C.), joins the Rams after having spent the past two seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). In fact, this past season, where Skapski’s time was split between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Cowichan Valley Capitals, was his most productive ever seeing the left-winger record 47 total points.

The Rams front-line acquisitions from the off-season is rounded out by other impressive players including Steve Harland (Toronto, Ont.), Tre Folkes (Toronto, Ont.), Brandon Hughes (Oakville, Ont.), Cavin Leth (Taber, Alta.), and David Miller (Burlington, Ont.).

Matthew Santos (Etobicoke, Ont.) was also acquired by the Rams this off-season, but unfortunately the vastly experienced right-winger will have to be red-shirted for this upcoming season, according to U SPORTS rules, due to his year of playing professional hockey with the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL.

On the defensive side of things, the Rams have found a breadth of experience in the newly acquired Greg DiTomaso (Toronto, Ont.). A smart player who has been described as a stay-at-home defenceman, DiTomaso joins Ryerson after having split the past four seasons between the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the QMJHL, and the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). In his last season, which played as a member of the St. Catharines Falcons in the GOJHL, DiTomaso put on an impressive display of skill having racked up 72 total points over the course of the season.

These new Rams recruits are not just impressive with respect to their skill on the ice, but also with respect to their leadership abilities. Of the nine new recruits acquired, the Rams have two former team captains, and a host of players that possess a tremendous amount of experience between. While some could make the claim that the acquisition of so many leadership-minded players can lead to an unfortunately directionless team, this does not seem to be the case for the 2017-18 Rams. Having come off one of their most impressive seasons to date, the new Rams lineup has only one goal in mind this time around; improve on what was done last year.

The Rams, both the new and the old, will get the chance to display their skill for the first time on October 12 against the Guelph Gryphons at Gryphon Centre Arena. Last season saw the Rams completely eclipse the Gryphons across two games, racking up a total of 16 goals for, while only permitting 6 goals against.

Following Thursday's tilt in Guelph the Rams will return to the Mattamy Athletic Centre for their first game on home ice on Sunday, October 15 for a 2:00 p.m. puck drop.

Rams hockey enthusiasts will be able to catch all of the action on and by following us on twitter, @ryersonrams.

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