Photo by Hung Le

Women's hockey announces 2018-19 recruiting class

By Jessica Pincente

TORONTO - The Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team has officially announced their 2018-19 recruiting class, naming all eight players who are set to suit up for the Rams in September.  

A program-best fifth place conference finish made the 2017-18 season the most successful in team history, but the Rams will now look to fill the gaps left by their four key graduating players - Ailish Forfar, Sarah McGilvray, Alex Rodriguez and Alyssa Connolly.

“After last year's strong season, the expectations for our program have elevated,” says Rams head coach Lisa Haley. “This recruiting class is front-loaded with offensive skill at the forward end. Scoring in the OUA is hard to come by [...] Each recruit brings a different style to their game, giving us terrific options and the ability to give our opponents a different look every time.”

The eight-player recruiting class features four players formerly of the Toronto Jr. Aeros, as well as one transfer from the NCAA and several other players from various Provincial Women’s Hockey League/Midget AA teams.

2018-19 Recruiting Class: (alphabetical order)

Claire Banks - Defence - London, Ont.

A defender out of London, Ont., Claire Banks spent the last three seasons with the Bluewater Hawks of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL). A multi-sport athlete in high school, Banks captained the hockey and soccer teams at Sir Wilfrid Laurier HS and was named Female Athlete of the Year for three consecutive years.

“The OUA Women’s hockey league continues to get faster and tougher every year,” says Haley. “It is important that our recruits help us to stay competitive. Claire will bring both elements to the ice - she is a good skater and loves to be aggressive when defending. She takes pride in the strengths of her game - being a ‘shut-down’ D, and skating pucks out of trouble.”

Banks will be entering Ryerson’s nursing program in September 2018.

“I enjoyed the campus and facilities when I visited,” says Banks. “Ryerson has very strong academics as well as athletics. I was also really impressed by the coaches, and it just felt like the right fit.

Tori Butler - Defence - North Saanich, B.C.

Tori Butler, a defender from North Saanich, B.C., joins the Rams as the only out of province recruit for the new season. Butler played her minor hockey with the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) from 2015 to 2018, sporting the ‘A’  in her final two seasons. In 2017, Butler’s OHA team won the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) championship, an accomplishment she describes as the highlight of her athletic career.

“Tori is a tenacious and smooth skating defender with great vision and creativity,” says Haley. “She is a natural leader both on and off the ice and will enjoy the challenges of student-athlete life at Ryerson.”

The four-time honour roll student will enter Ryerson’s Biomedical Engineering program in the fall.

Erika Crouse - Forward - Kirkland Lake, Ont.

Erika Crouse joins the Rams from Kirkland Lake, Ont., playing her minor hockey for the Etobicoke Dolphins (PWHL). This past season, Crouse recorded 10 goals and 14 assists in 34 games for her team. She led the Dolphins in scoring in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

“Erika may be small in stature but she plays much bigger than her size,” notes Haley. “She brings plenty of grit to the game on both sides of the puck, whether that be driving pucks to the net or blocking shots on the PK. She has the potential to play multiple roles for our team right away.”

Crouse self-describes as a “hardworking and committed athlete who is passionate about the game and is driven to be the best [she] can be”.

Crouse will begin her studies in the Criminology program in September.

Avery Horlock - Forward - Pickering, Ont.

Horlock joins the Rams from the Whitby Wolves after playing two seasons in the PWHL (her first was with the Aeros). The talented Horlock led the Wolves in scoring last season, tallying 21 points in the regular season. Horlock gave “multi-sport athlete” a whole new meaning at St. Mary CHS, playing hockey, soccer, lacrosse, and running track.

“Avery is able to create scoring chances for herself or a team-mate that most players cannot see are there,” notes Haley. “Beyond the hockey arena, Avery is very passionate about her educational path, and, as well, in the sense of community and the value that comes from engaging with others.”

Horlock will enter into Ryerson’s RTA: New Media program in the fall.

“Academically, [Ryerson’s] New Media program is second to none,” says Horlock. “Athletically, I can’t say enough how much I look forward to playing for Coach Haley, the coaching staff and my teammates. After seeing the Mattamy Athletic Centre facilities, student residences and academic buildings I have been excited about becoming part of the Ryerson Ramily.”

Natalie Pantaleo - Forward - Newmarket, Ont.

One of four Toronto Aeros to join the Rams, Natalie Pantaleo spent the last four seasons playing for the province’s reigning champions. Pantaleo had 26 points in 38 regular season games for the Aeros, the team that went on to win both PWHL and Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) championships this season.

“She has a huge hockey IQ, and just seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to reading the game,” says Haley. “She will be joining some of her former Aeros teammates with the Rams this season and we are anticipating some great chemistry amongst them.”

Pantaleo will be entering the Criminology program in September.

“When figuring out my future and where I was going, I kept picturing myself at Ryerson,” says Pantaleo. “The team and coaches have already been so welcoming and helpful to me. There were no cons for me - it just felt right, and I knew it was the place for me.”

Cassie Rich - Forward - Callander, Ont.

Cassie Rich will suit up for the Rams in September after playing her minor hockey with the North Bay Midget Ice Boltz AA. Rich led the Ice Boltz in scoring last season, while her leadership skills earned her the title as alternate captain. Her ability to perform under pressure makes Rich a crucial asset to the Rams.

“She has the tenacity and grit to be a great PK player,” explains Haley. “She has the quick release shot to be dangerous on the PP, and she’s got great vision and hockey IQ [...] Cassie has also been a proven leader with her club team, which is a testament to her ‘team-first’ attitude.”

An honour-roll student four years in a row, Rich will enter Ryerson’s Arts & Contemporary Studies program in the fall.

“Imagining myself putting on a Ryerson Rams jersey feels like all of my hockey dreams have come true,” says Rich. “Everything I have ever worked hard for has paid off.”


Camryn Tait comes as the Rams’ only transfer of the year.  Tait, a former Division I athlete, played for the Providence College Friars for one season before deciding to return home to Toronto.  A former member of the Toronto Aeros (PWHL), Tait brings a great deal of experience to the Rams, having won a PWHL title, an OWHA provincial championship and a U18 National championship with Team Ontario.  

“I love her ability to think the game and make plays at full speed,” says Haley. “She’s proven her offensive skills at every stage of her career and I can see the same thing happening at the OUA level immediately. I am thrilled that Cam has found the right home for her at Ryerson.”

Tait will enter Ryerson’s Child and Youth Care program in the fall.

“Being a part of an environment that wants what is best for me as a person and student more than a player is what I was looking for in a school,” says Tait. “Being able to have that support system at school makes me feel more comfortable and excited to go to Ryerson.”


Natalie Thompson will join the likes of Rachel Seely and Fanny Vigeant in Ryerson’s goal crease this season, named as the only goaltender of the recruiting class. The Richmond Hill, Ont. native is a highly-regarded recruit, having just recently led the Toronto Aeros to a PWHL and OWHA title.

Thompson’s had some impressive numbers this year: her 0.71 goals against average and a 0.956 save percentage in 20 regular season games earned her the PWHL’s Goaltender of the Year honours.

“The pressure a goaltender faces in championship games is so much higher than other players,” explains Haley. “For Natalie to lead her team to victory in every single major category at the  PWHL and Provincial levels is unbelievable. We are anticipating her success will only continue at the OUA level.”

A four-time honor roll student, Thompson will be studying Criminology at Ryerson.

Haley says her expectations for the team have risen since last season, and the incoming recruits will help increase the team’s overall competitiveness.

“We feel we have more depth on our team than ever before,” explains Haley. “Having said that, the OUA continues to get more competitive every year. The time to step back and celebrate last season's successes has passed and we have focused our sights on raising the bar even more next season.”


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