Rams’ men’s hockey team returns from suspension with new bench boss

Interim head coach Johnny Duco runs the Rams' first practice after the team's suspension was lifted Monday (Hayley Brauer/Ryersonian Staff)

Interim head coach Johnny Duco runs the Rams’ first practice after the team’s suspension was lifted Monday (Hayley Brauer/Ryersonian Staff)

The Ryerson men’s hockey team is back on the ice after serving its seven-day team suspension, but for the first time in eight years, there will be a new face behind the bench running the show.

Assistant coach Johnny Duco takes over as interim head coach of the Rams for the team’s next two games while longtime bench boss Graham Wise serves the final two games of his four-game suspension.

Wise and the team were suspended by the university when players were caught drinking alcohol during an October road trip to Princeton, N.J., violating the student-athlete code of conduct.

“It’s an unfortunate situation but I’m going to make the most of it,” said Duco, who is in his first year with the team. “It is a great opportunity for me to get the reigns here for a week until coach Wise returns (next) Monday.”

Duco will run four practices this week, leading up to Rams’ next two games at the MAC against Royal Military College on Friday and Carleton on Saturday.

Video by Hayley Brauer and Nuruddin Qorane

Rams’ captain Andrew Buck admits the coaching change, and adjusting to Duco’s system, will take some getting used to.

“It’ll definitely be different,” said Buck, now in his fifth year with the Rams. “Having Graham here my last four years and a bit, it’ll be a different game for sure.”

The Rams (5-4) hope to regain their winning form prior to the suspension. After being forced to forfeit their last two games, which counted as losses in the standings, the team slipped from third place into a tie for sixth in the OUA West division.

“We know how important these [upcoming] two games are,” said Buck. “It’s about making sure guys stayed focused and just put the last week behind us.”

To help fill the void left by the firing last week of assistant coach Lawrence Smith, Duco will be joined on the bench this weekend by women’s interim head coach, Pierre Alain, and Duco’s brother, Mike, a professional hockey player for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

“[Mike’s] been signed to a short-term contract,” said Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics. “Coach Wise will make the decision and put a recommendation forward as to who the next assistant will be.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 13, 2013.

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