A new era begins Friday for Ryerson Rams women's hockey
Source: Adam Ali, Ryerson Athletics / Photo credit Stephen Kassim
TORONTO - Over four years after President Sheldon Levy was
approached with the proposal of introducing a women's ice hockey
team into Ryerson Athletics in 2007, and through the trenches of
early morning games in the Golden Blades Women's Hockey League
(GBWHL) as the Stingers, the Ryerson Rams dream will finally become
a reality this Friday night.
The women's hockey team will get its first taste of OUA regular season action when it faces off against the York Lions at George Bell Arena.
Guiding the transition since her appointment in April is Lisa Jordan, former Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) coach of the year and one of Canada's most recognized figures in women's hockey. The four-time Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champion is a highly tenured coach within Hockey Canada's women's program, and was given the reigns at Ryerson by Stephanie White, former Head Coach of the Stingers and the department's current Associate Director of Athletics.
In the final year as the Stingers, the team went undefeated in 24 games in the GBWHL, capturing the league title and taking third at the provincial championships in 2010-11. However, with the significant gap in the level of play between last year and their new OUA opponents, the Rams have already gone through some growing pains in their pre-season schedule.
"The progress through the season thus far has gone as I expected," stated Jordan. "I was prepared for as many high moments as low and we have lived up to that. We've already secured our first win, which gave a boost of confidence to the group that they belonged, and we've also lost by some lopsided scores, proving to ourselves that there is still much work to do."
The women lost six of seven non-conference matches, three of which were by four or more goals. However, balancing that was their first-ever win in their opening non-conference match against Friday night's opponents from York. The Rams beat their northern city rivals 4-3 on September 16.
However, it is clear that both the expectations and demands of a rigorous OUA schedule will provide a challenge for this Ryerson team in its inaugural year, as the Rams are made up of 19 OUA rookies and carry just two players with legitimate CIS experience.
The following is an overview of the 2011-12 Ryerson Rams women's hockey team.
Areas of Focus
Jordan has made it clear what her strategy will be to drive the Rams forward in their first season of OUA hockey. "Our defensive team play will be a priority from the get-go," she said. "Most successful teams are built around solid cohesion in their defensive team play."
A defensive strategy is not easy to implement with 19 athletes who are learning her system for the first time, and Jordan acknowledges that there will be a development period before the team will see the fruits of their labours.
"Our team definitely has lots of ground to cover, but the players are beginning to grasp the basic concepts of my system well," she said.
Jordan will also zero-in on the penalty kill as an important aspect of their ability to skate with some offensively potent teams in the OUA.
"We will face teams with some very strong offensive firepower and our success in being competitive with these teams will be dependent on our ability to execute on the penalty kill."
The amount of success the Rams will have throughout the year may fall on the shoulders of two seasoned veterans with bonafide experience in CIS women's hockey. Former Saint Mary's Huskies forwards and Ontario natives Lauren McCusker and Kyla Thurston have made the trip from the AUS conference to Ryerson along with Jordan, and their arrival will no doubt be invaluable both on the ice and in the dressing room.
Jordan is saving her announcement of the team's first captain and assistant captains until just before their home opener on Friday, but stated that the Huskies transfers have made an impact with their younger teammates thus far.
"Both (Kyla and Lauren) have already been instrumental in guiding the others through these early stages of their own CIS careers," said Jordan.
McCusker (Newmarket, Ont.) is a former AUS conference all-star and led Saint Mary's with 24 points in 2010-11, while Thurston (Ajax, Ont.) recorded 11 goals and 23 points last season. They have eight years of CIS experience between them. That is eight more than all other players combined on the Ryerson roster.
The only other player to have garnered university experience is Edmonton native Janella Brodett. The former ACHA all-star took home a NCAA division II national championship with the Lindenwood Lions in 2009-10, and also dressed for Grant MacEwan University last year before joining the Rams this fall.
Rookies to Watch
Goaltender Emma Crawley headlines the 2010-11 Rams rookies. The Herring Cove, N.S. product was recruited by Jordan after enjoying substantial success with both women's and men's club teams in the Maritimes and helping Team Nova Scotia to an Atlantic Challenge Cup Championship. She has also graced the cover of the September 27 issue of The Eyeopener, and is quickly becoming one of the first faces of Ryerson Rams women's hockey.
Jordan is well aware of the spotlight being projected on her first-year goaltender, and of the expectations it will also bring on the talented but inexperienced backstop.
"Emma will have shining moments for us, and she will also have some moments of adversity," said Jordan. "It is easy for a young player like Emma to get caught up in the hype that surrounds her right now. To be successful, she will be a sponge, humble, and keep a narrow focus on the path to her personal goals."
Four players who are technically returnees but will also be classified as OUA rookies this year are members of last year's Stingers team. This includes forwards Courtney Miller (Gravenhurst, Ont.), Victoria Arci (Woodbridge, Ont.) and Megan Higgins (Barrie, Ont.) as well as goaltender Dana Carson (London, Ont.).
The journey through an inaugural season is rarely a smooth one for any team, and the considerable jump to OUA competition will represent many hurdles for the Rams. However, Jordan has recognized what lies ahead, and is clearly prepared for it stating that her goal for this season will continue to be an improvement in performance. The ability of the players to apply what they've learned will dictate the team's success, she said.
"I can already see that we are capable of competing with all OUA teams for certain bursts of time in a game. Our challenge is to strive to be competitive for the entire 60 minutes. The closer we get to that, the better our chances of winning and that brings us one step closer to a playoff position."
She was also quick to point out that wins and losses will not be dictated by one player.
"We have lots of potential, but lots to prove. I will encourage our focus to remain on succeeding as a team, not as individuals."
The Rams begin their journey as Ryerson's eighth CIS team this Friday at George Bell Arena, where they will step onto the ice against the Lions at 7:00 p.m.