Last season, the women’s hockey team won the hearts of the school with a surprise spot in the playoffs, the first in team history. Despite being swept in the first round by the Guelph Gryphons, it was clear that the team had finally found its identity in its fourth season.
This season, however, has been the complete opposite. The team is 2-13-1, last in the OUA, with eight games to go.
“We had some high expectations for ourselves and the first half was disappointing,” said head coach Lisa Haley. “We just assumed that things went well last year and that we would pick up where we would let off. It’s not as simple as that.”
In the middle of the disappointment, Haley stepped away from the Rams in December and missed the first three games of 2016 to be the head coach for Team Canada at the IIHF women’s under-18 world championship in St. Catherines, Ont. Her team won the silver medal after a 3-2 overtime loss to the United States in the final.
While Haley was away, her assistant coaches, Ken Dufton and Margaret Jennings, filled in for her. According to fifth-year forward Melissa Wronzberg, the absence of Haley didn’t change the team’s routines.
“We make sure we don’t change anything,” Wronzberg said. “(Dufton and Jennings) just made sure it was no different then when (Haley) is here.”
Coaching two teams didn’t make splitting duties evenly an easy task. Haley was involved in picking the roster for Team Canada, while also setting up the training schedules and meetings leading up to the tournament. But she said, while the balance was hard, the schedules didn’t overlap too much.
“Ryerson was my first commitment until the regular season games were over,” she said.
A more likely reason for the team’s play this season has been injuries. They’re currently missing four key players, including captain Jessica Hartwick, who recently went down with a sprained MCL. She was seen at practice last week on crutches and hopes to be back in two to four weeks. But until she does return the team will have to play through with only five defencemen.
The team has trouble getting scoring chances, with only 426 shots on goal through Jan. 21. It is near the bottom in every offensive category. This could explain why the Rams only have 20 goals in 18 games, including being shut out six times.
“I think sometimes we are getting outworked and as a team we want to make sure we give ourselves the best chance,” Wronzberg said.
The team does have one player returning to the lineup for the 2016 half of the season. Kayla Karbonik, who last year as a rookie finished second on the team in goals (eight) and points (17), is back after missing a semester for academics.
She will immediately slide onto the top line with Sarah McGilvray and Emma Rutherford, who she had instant chemistry with last season. Already in five games this month, Karbonik has two assists.
Karbonik says she doesn’t feel pressure from the team to spark the offence.
“I’m going to try my best to (be a scorer),” she said. “I put (pressure on myself) because I know what I can do.”
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Sept. 27, 2016.