The summer is ending and many hockey-loving Canadians are patiently and anxiously awaiting the beginning of a new season. The UOIT Ridgeback’s men’s hockey team will open their season on Saturday, October 11 at 7:30pm versus the McGill Redmen.
The team has undergone plenty of changes this summer, including a new head coach in Craig Fisher. Prior to coming to UOIT, Fisher coached the Whitby Fury in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. In his last season, Fisher coached the team to its most successful season in 15 years with a 31-19-5 record. “My ultimate goals with this program are to one day be a top four team in our division and to win a playoff round,” says Fisher, “I want us to be a competitive team every night.”
Fisher got straight to work over the break recruiting new players and developing his roster. Seven rookies join the returning 18 players on the team this year, including former OHL players. Conner Jarvis of the Brampton Battalion and Mike Robinson of the Niagara Ice Dogs will add depth to the offence and goalie Brendan O’Neill of the North Bay Battalion will help between the pipes.
“Reputation is everything,” says Fisher about the recruiting process. “It’s all about going to watch a lot of games and talking to a lot of people. You have to devote a lot of time to it.”
The team also has a change in leadership this year. According to Fisher, last year’s captain, Luke VanMoerkerke made a last minute decision to return to the team this year and his “C” had already been passed on to someone new.
“I’d already named his best friend as captain, but he was very supportive of that,” says Fisher.
Accepting the newly-appointed role of team captain is Matt Pasztor, a fifth year defensemen. According to Fisher, it was easier to make the decision since he knew some of the players from his stint as associate head coach of the Ridgebacks from 2010-2012. “I coached some of the older players when I was here before, so I know them pretty well. Our captain and three assistant captains, I’d coached all four before.”
For Fisher it’s all about attention to detail and second efforts. “I expect a professional attitude of taking pride in every shift, and taking pride in your classes and enjoying yourself. My number one goal is to graduate players.”
Last year, the Ridgebacks missed the playoffs posting an 8-16-4 record and finishing seventh in their division.
The UOIT Ridgebacks kicked off their pre-season with a bumpy start this year, losing their first two exhibition games. After suffering a 3-2 double overtime loss to the York Lions, the Ridgebacks failed to finish with a 5-2 loss to the Guelph Gryphons.