By Harlan Nemers
With the Rams controlling the puck, rookie Domenic Alberga parked himself in front of Brock’s goaltender Real Cormier.
The shot came fired from the point, tipped off the shaft of Alberga’s stick and into the far-side of the net.
Scoring the overtime winner in the OUA quarter-finals, the 21-year-old Alberga had just given the Rams a 1-0 lead in the first round series.
Without the goal, the Rams’ hopes of winning the best-of-three series would have been much more in doubt.
It was the pinnacle of rookie performances in a season dominated by rookie play.
After Alberga was announced as OUA Rookie of the Year last week, he became the fourth athlete at Ryerson to win the award this season.
Ryerson also became the first school in OUA history to sweep the male athlete category in Rookie of the Year awards.
In addition to Alberga, Jean-Victor Mukama of men’s basketball, Adam Anagnostopoulos of men’s volleyball and Cameron Galea-Andrews of men’s soccer also took home the award for their respective teams.
“I think the four rookies in the OUA awards are pretty big and I couldn’t tell you of a pro
gram that’s accomplished that anywhere I’ve seen,” said associate athletic director Stephanie White.
“We might have had one or none every couple of years and its just blossoming.”
Ryerson hasn’t been known for its exceptional rookie play until recent years, when it has dominated that category. Ryerson had won just 11 such awards all-time until 2011.
But since then it’s won eight.
“What you’ll find is, we had like almost none and then over the last couple years, it’s just blown up,” White said.
Before Alberga, the last time a men’s hockey player won the award was 15 years ago.
The success in recruiting top student-athletes is no more evident than in the men’s soccer team. Its players have won four of the last five rookie awards.
“I think it shows how we’ve grown as a program and what (athletic director Ivan Joseph) is doing,” Galea-Andrews said.
“He’s trying to create a program not just bent on individuals but he’s trying to make all the sports teams grow together.”
Mukama says that having a strong core of veteran players has helped him develop personally and paved the way for himself and subsequent recruiting classes.
“Ryerson wasn’t really good at basketball at all, but then coach (Roy) Rana joined the program five years ago, recruited players like Jordan [Gauthier], Jahmal [Jones] and Bjorn [Michaelsen],” said Mukama.
“They’ve single-handedly brought up the program for basketball and that’s just attracted all the young people to play with them.”
This season, Ryerson also saw a handful of players being named to the OUA all-rookie teams in Julie Longman and Kristine Yan in women’s volleyball and Jeff Ardron in men’s volleyball.
“I’ve seen the way this team has transitioned over the past couple years — and not only the team — but the school itself and it’s making huge steps forward,” Anagnostopoulos said. “If I’m now a recruit coming in, I see that and that’s turning heads.”
White says that incoming athletes are more aware of Ryerson .
“We’re more in the consciousness of athletes because they’re aware of our school,” she said.
“That building (Mattamy Athletic Centre) has been one of the big building blocks of our ability to recruit because it brought national attention to our program.”
Meanwhile, for Alberga, the future of Ryerson recruitment has never looked brighter.
“People are now seeing that Ryerson is going to be one of the top contending athletics in all of OUA,” Alberga said. “Hopefully we keep bringing in more recruits that are good and just keep raising the bar.”
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 12, 2014.