After nine appearances in her freshman season of 2016-17, Rachel Seeley’s promising career with the Ryerson Rams grew by a quantum leap. In spite of the fact that the Ottawa Lady 67s alum suffered through a difficult 0-4-0 mark in her freshman year, she managed to make a significant impression in her U Sports debut, showing the potential for the goaltending brilliance to follow.
Gracing the ice for said debut on October 13, 2016, Seeley put forth an admirably valiant effort versus the visiting Brock Badgers, emerging as a key factor in the Rams pushing them to double overtime with a solid 25-save performance. As a side note, the coaching staff for both clubs possessed a strong Hockey Canada influence. Rams head coach Lisa Haley served on Kevin Dineen’s staff for Canada’s contingent at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Badgers bench boss Margot Page was a former player for Canada’s national women’s team.
Although Brock drew first blood as Carley Blomberg capitalized on a first period power play opportunity, Seeley maintained her composure. Not allowing another goal until the 1:14 mark of the third when Kailey Pierson found the back of the net, there was strong possibility for Seeley to emerge victorious in her debut, one that was a see-saw battle between both determined teams.
Displaying tremendous durability, there was a small tinge of irony in Seeley’s debut. As the Rams compete at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, located inside the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs for over 65 years, the game winner was scored by Annie Berg. An alum of the Canadian U18 national team, Berg’s father Bill, once played for the Maple Leafs in the same arena that the Rams now call home.
Given the role of starting goaltender heading into her sophomore season, it was an assignment that Rachel Seeley accepted as a personal challenge. Determined to propel the Rams into the postseason picture, the efforts paid remarkable dividends, rewarding the Rams for their faith.
Sporting a respectable 12-8-0 won/loss mark, complemented by a 2.15 goals against average, she started the season on the road. Excelling in what could have been a baptism of fire, she emerged victorious in both games. Beginning with a 7-2 wallop of GTA rival York University, she also recorded 34 saves in a valiant performance as the Rams overcame Guelph in a 4-3 final
“It meant a lot to me for the team and my coaches to put faith and confidence in me to be the starting goalie this year for the Rams. Obviously it is a huge accomplishment and I could not have done it without them.”
Other wins in the first half of Seeley’s season as starting goaltender included 25 saves in a 2-1 final versus Brock, avenging last season’s visceral loss. A November 9th affair with crosstown rival University of Toronto resulted in a 5-3 tally, while a key win on the road took place in Northern Ontario as the Rams defeated the Laurentian Voyageurs in a 2-1 final. As a side note, the Voyageurs roster featured Lady 67s alum Natalie Lamarche.
Although Seeley had a 5-6-0 record at the Holiday Break, she displayed tenacity, providing her team with an injection of confidence, while displaying strong character. Approaching the second half of the season with a renewed focus, learning from mistakes in the first half, Seeley approached the latter half with a clean slate.
Starting January with a four-game winning streak, it was the kind of crucial performance that helped set an encouraging tone. Undoubtedly, Seeley’s on-ice efforts made a statement that she was prepared to steer the playoff push in a positive direction.
Adding sheen to such a scintillating streak was the fact that the first pair of wins resulted in proud acclaim as Seeley was recognized as the OUA’s Female Athlete of the Week (awarded on January 9, 2018). Recognized for victories against Laurier (January 6) and Windsor (January 7), the results speak for themselves. Hosting the Windsor Lancers, Seeley needed only 22 saves as the Rams blanked the visitors in a 3-0 final.
The following day, the Rams visited the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. Facing 21 shots, Seeley displayed tremendous mettle as regulation resulted in a scoreless affair. A 1-0 shutout over Laurier took place in the shootout very exciting performance. Accentuating the achievement was the fact that it was her first two shutouts in Rams blue and gold.
Home games against the Queen’s Golden Gaels and Waterloo Warriors on the following weekend extended Seeley’s winning streak. Once again, Seeley’s efforts enabled the Rams to compete against one of the conference’s tougher teams, establishing herself as a goaltender that can excel in key situations, as overtime was required to defeat the Golden Gaels in a pulse-pounding 4-3 final. Against Waterloo, Seeley made 25 saves, as goals from Elexa Pakozdy, Ailish Forfar and Kryshanda Green resulted in a 5-2 win.
“Coming out of Christmas we knew we had to come out big in order to reach our goal of making playoffs and the four game win streak was huge for us. My team made it easy for me and they did the job at both ends of the ice to make mine that much easier. I think the streak did a lot for our confidence and we built upon it from there finishing off the season.”
Although the Lady Blues would snap Seeley’s winning streak with a visceral 3-0 victory on January 20, a road trip to St. Catharines the following day saw the start of another winning streak in her breakthrough season, turning the dreams of a postseason berth into serious possibility. Recording a season-high 30 saves in a 4-3 win, she followed it up with her second straight road win, as a tightly contested 2-1 final versus Waterloo ended in the Rams’ favor.
Ending the streak in grand fashion, Seeley and the Rams made a statement in a huge 2-0 shutout win versus Nipissing, who would also play another role later in the season. Taking into account that the Lakers qualified for the 2017 OUA championship game, Seeley may be the building block for the Rams to reach those same lofty heights in the near future.
With the Rams defeating the Ontario Institute of Technology on February 15, they were assured of a playoff spot, it served as a great reward, a landmark achievement which certainly represented a personal milestone for Seeley, bringing an enhanced meaning to her journey as the starting backstop.
“When the team got together in August for the first time one of the first goals we set out for ourselves was to make the playoffs, so obviously that was a huge accomplishment we were all really proud of. I am just happy I could be a little part of our success.”
Such success would also find Seeley enjoying another landmark win against the Lakers. With the Rams making the trek to North Bay to challenge the fourth-seeded Lakers, Seeley assured herself a place in program immortality, gaining the program’s first-ever playoff victory.
As the Lakers featured fantastic fifth year goaltender Jackie Rochefort, dynasty and destiny collided. Worth noting, Rochefort was a key factor in transforming the Lakers into a perennial contender for the McCaw Cup, an aspect that may one day define Seeley’s legacy with the Rams.
With Seeley stopping all 10 Lakers shots in the first period, Lauren Nicholson would score the first goal of the game for a 1-0 advantage. Although second period goals by Madison Solie and Taylor McManus provided the Lakers with a 2-1 lead, Seeley remained undeterred, focused on the chance to make history.
After the Rams regrouped, reclaiming the lead later in the second as Nicholson scored her second and Kryshanda Green added her name to the scoresheet, Seeley continued to stonewall the Lakers. As the last minutes of the third period resulted in four-on-four hockey, the Lakers offense continued to be frustrated. With Forfar fittingly scoring the last goal of the game into an empty net, the result was a true team effort, securing an historic win for the program.
In spite of the fact that the Lakers bounced back, grabbing the series victory, there was a strong sense of a fait accompli for Seeley and the Rams, having made tremendous gains this season. As the greatest season of Rams hockey also saw captain Ailish Forfar and rookie sensation Brooklyn Gemmill garner the first league awards in program history, while a pair of Rams alumnae helped the Markham Thunder win the Clarkson Cup, it was an amazing journey that Seeley was proud to be part of.
Such a season was also one where Seeley showed she was a statistical marvel. Ranking second in the conference in games played (21) and started (20), her 1229:24 minutes also placed her second overall. In addition, her 508 saves were good for third in conference play. The proudest metric is her 12 wins ranking third in a conference stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a conference filled with superlative goaltending talent.
Reflecting on the achievement with a combination of humility and gratitude for the efforts of her teammates, Seeley’s contributions towards program history have definitely made her a role model for future Rams goaltenders to emulate.
“Honestly, I am not someone who checks out their stats often during the season, so I did not even know this until now. But, personally I look at this more of a team stat because I could not have done it without them. The team had a historic season and most nights they made my job easy and I definitely I did not get those wins alone. I am just happy to see what the team accomplished as a whole.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
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