It’s that time of year again. Time to lace up the skates and hit the rink. That’s right, hockey is back — Rams hockey that is.
The men’s team will be opening the season at York University on Thursday. The Rams played two games against York last season. The first went to the Rams, while York took the second.
Last season, the team went 17-11. Those 17 wins set a record for the most wins in a season. The team did not play a single shootout last season. This was good enough for third place in the Ontario University Athletics West Division, behind only Western and Lakehead.
Jamie Wise was the team’s leading scorer last year, finishing the season with 45 points.
Ryerson also forfeited two games against University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Queen’s University for violations of the student-athlete code of conduct. The players were caught drinking on an exhibition road trip to play against Princeton University.
The Rams made the playoffs and played Brock University in the first round. In a best-of-three series, Ryerson won the first and third games. In the second round, Lakehead University won the first two games, eliminating Ryerson.
Entering this season, the team has voted and named Michael Fine as their new captain.
“I was happy and excited that the votes went my way,” said Fine. “”I’m appreciative that my team voted me as the guy to lead.”
The Rams have a lot of new faces, with 12 new players joining the team and 15 returning from last season.
According to assistant captain, Brian Birkhoff, this was on the players’ minds during exhibition games.
“The focus was on getting used to each other and playing together,” Birkhoff said.
The Rams have opened the pre-season with a 2-3 record. It beat the University of Toronto and UOIT, while dropping games to Western University, the University of Manitoba and York. It played Western in the first game of the pre-season. In that game, the team played its first game with the new three-on-three overtime format.
Heading into the season opener, Wise is confident about the team’s chances of doing well this year.
“We’ve improved on the back end, we have great depth up front and scoring is not an issue,” he said.
The team’s biggest concern entering the season is defence. In five exhibition games, the Rams have allowed 22 goals while scoring 19.
“We need to do a better job of keeping (pucks) out of our own net,” said Wise.
In order to do this, Wise has tried to create a defensive mentality for his team.
“It’s a team commitment,” Wise said. “Everybody needs to be defensively responsible.”
Although leading scorer Jamie Wise left for the American Hockey League, Domenic Alberga, who was second in team scoring with 44 points, remains with the team.
The Rams’ home opener is next Thursday against Laurentian University at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Ryerson will play local rivals U of T and York twice each this season. The Rams also take on McGill University, which ranked third in the top 10 Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings last season.
However, Wise’s focus right now is on the puck to drop on Thursday night.
“I’m looking forward to a good season,” said Wise. “We’re just going to take things game by game, step by step.”