By Kristy Koehler, November 26 2019—
After a season that can only be described as historic, a common denominator in the Dinos men’s soccer team’s success emerged in post-game interviews and conversations with players — Jake Ruschkowski. His teammates say he’s easily the best goaltender in Canadian varsity sport.
Ruschkowski was named to the Canada West First All-Star team and became the first Dinos goalkeeper to be named a U Sports All-Canadian. He was named to the Second Team in the national organization after helping the Dinos make their way to their first appearance at a national championship in program history.
His teammates were incredibly proud of the honour, but did not hold back their thoughts that he should have been named a First Team All-Canadian.
“In my opinion we have the best goalie,” said defender Dondre Bailey. “Jake is phenomenal out there. He keeps us in most games. He‘s by far, in the 18 years I’ve been playing the game, the best goalie I’ve ever had on a team in terms of shot blocking.”
“He is definitely the best,” said Derek Brust. “This year, he finally got some recognition. Watch him play, he’s definitely the best — and he’s definitely the best goalie I’ve ever played with.”
“No questions asked — he’s the best,” echoed team captain Cristiano De Carvalho. “The guy saved us in so many games. Jake is a phenomenal player. He was unbelievable for us.”
His teammates say he’s calm and virtually unflappable between the posts. Maybe even a little too calm — De Carvalho poked some fun at his star netminder and told the story of how he fell asleep at half time during a big game with crosstown rivals the Mount Royal University Cougars.
Ruschkowski said it was more like “resting his eyes.”
“In the Canada West semifinal against MRU, the day before the game there was so much excitement because whoever won that game would go to nationals,” he said. “Needless to say, I had troubles falling asleep. At halftime in the game, in the locker room, I had to take a few moments of rest just to close my eyes and collect myself.”
He certainly wasn’t asleep in net, racking up 76 saves and a save percentage at .752. Ruschkowski says his years of experience are what keeps him so collected.
“I’ve learned to deal with the pressures of playing in goal. I think knowing that I have the trust of my teammates and coaches also feeds into how I play with confidence,” he said.
Ruschkowski’s recipe for success in goal is as down-to-earth as he is.
“I think the secret to goalkeeping is not to worry about the small mistakes,” he said. “The job of a goalkeeper is to keep the ball out of the net. As long as I can do that task, I don’t care how it’s done. I don’t need to have flawless technique or make the prettiest saves — as long as the ball stays out of the net I’m happy.”
In his third year with the Dinos, Ruschkowski says his naming to both the conference and national all-star teams was a huge honour.
“These were awards I did not expect to achieve this year,” he said. “I guess I could say the sheer quantity of saves I made this year was a big factor in the recognition. It definitely feels nice knowing that I’ve earned the respect of the U Sports coaches and players across Canada.”
The men’s soccer team looks to be in good hands next year as well, with Ruschkowski planning to continue calmly saving the day for the Dinos.