Coach Lisa Haley with fourth-year Jessica Hartwick during an afternoon practice. (Courtesy Tristan Simpson/Ryersonian Staff)

Coach Lisa Haley with fourth-year Jessica Hartwick during an afternoon practice. (Courtesy Tristan Simpson/Ryersonian Staff)

Lisa Haley has made her return as head coach of the Ryerson Rams women’s hockey team after winning gold at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

This season will mark Haley’s third year as the Rams’ hockey coach. Last year, she took a leave of absence to work as an assistant coach for Canada’s national women’s team for the 2013-14 season, including the Olympics.

“It’s great to be back in the Ramily,” Haley said. “I think that our athletics program brings a lot of energy to the school.”

The team starts its pre-season on Friday at the Mattamy Athletic Centre against the Carleton Ravens.

Though Haley said she is ready to start another season with the Rams, she had to readapt to coaching at the varsity level.

“The biggest difference is with the Olympic team we’re peaking for one tournament, it doesn’t really matter if we win a single game on the way,” Haley said. “But here in the varsity environment, you’re fighting for two points every time you step on the ice.”

Last year, the team finished with a record of 11-23. Although Haley was away for the year, she kept in contact with Pierre Alain — the interim head coach — in addition to other Rams staff and players.

She also had a role in recruiting this year’s talent, including Kayla Karbonik.

“I was in charge of closing some of the deals,” said Haley, who personally called athletes to deliver a final pitch.

Haley said she is optimistic about this season, and added that her Olympic experience will benefit the Rams.

“The chance to work with NHL coach Kevin Dineen, who joined our (Olympic) team was an awesome experience,” Haley said. “To learn some of the tactical ways to play the game will certainly fold into our playbook here at Ryerson.

“Our best years are yet ahead of us. We feel like we have a team now that can compete with any of the OUA (Ontario University Athletics) teams,” she said.

This season will be the final year for some of the players Haley recruited when she started in 2011.

“I had the privilege of having (Haley) in my first and second year,” co-captain Jessica Hartwick said. “I’m extremely excited to have Lisa back. She’s the best coach we can have here at Ryerson.”

Hartwick is in her fourth season with the Rams, and plans to graduate at the end of the year.

Haley says watching students succeed is one of her goals.

“I see (that) my role as a head coach is to help everybody reach their full potential. It’s been great to see some of the progress everybody has made the past four years.

“I’m excited to see them walk across the stage with their university degrees.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Sept. 17, 2014.

Tristan Simpson was a reporter with the Ryersonian. He completed her Masters of Journalism at Ryerson University in 2015.