The Brock Badgers hockey season reached its midway point this past weekend and the team is rather content with their performance thus far.
After 14 games played this season, the team sits in eighth place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West with a record of 5-7-2. The OUA West is by far the tighter division in the OUA as only seven points separate the ninth team and the third team.
“We’re relatively pleased at where we are right now,” said Brock’s head coach, Murray Nystrom. “We are probably three or four points out of where we thought we would be in a good case scenario.”
Compared to last season, this has been a big improvement for the Badgers as their play has been a lot more consistent. There has obviously been some inconsistency at times but when the team plays at their highest capability there have been signs of greatness, which has a lot to do with the experience gained from last season.
“That experience will make us better. We’ve already seen ourselves in late games playing differently, playing well, playing positively,” said Nystrom.
The team has changed their approach this season and have made a few modifications here and there that they hope will help them down the road. The changes cannot be fixed overnight but it looks like the team has been able to adjust fairly well this season.
“In the Nipissing game, where we were tied 2-2 and scored at the midway point of the third and didn’t sit back but we did a good job managing the rest of the game and got the win,” said Nystrom. “That’s a good reflection of experience and leadership that we have. This year we’ve also made some changes on how we fore-check and play in the offensive and neutral zone,” he added.
Not only has the team stepped up as a whole this season, but there has also been a few key players who have elevated their game. Matt Abercrombie (Sarnia, Ont.) and Thomas Stajan (Mississauga, Ont.) have been used to carrying the offensive load for the past few seasons, but there are a few other players that Nystrom has been happy with so far.
“C.J Dixon (Thorold, Ont.) has really emerged into his senior season as a real effective CIS player. He’s stronger and obviously older,” added Nystrom. “He has great speed, and has been using that, not only doing a lot of penalty kill for us over the years, but has really added an offensive side to his game this year,” noted Nystrom.
Dixon has missed a few games due to a shoulder injury but Nystrom is looking forward to his return and thinks he will have a very positive impact offensively. Also, defensively, Nystrom has seen a big improvement in Dan Tanel’s (Brampton, Ont.) game this season.
“I think Tanel’s game has evolved. He’s had more of a pro approach to managing the game…. He’s the kind of guy you notice because he’s so big but sometimes goes unnoticed because of all the good plays he makes with and without the puck. I think he’s been really good,” said Nystrom.
Another player that should be looked at as a key to Brock’s success should be Dalton McGrath (Brampton, Ont.). McGrath is one of the best goaltenders in the OUA this season as he has a goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of 0.937 per cent. Nystrom has been very pleased with his goaltender’s play and said, “If (Dalton) continues on the path that he’s on, he’ll be a key part in us preparing for playoffs, instead of getting in.”
The Badgers’ record is respectable thus far but they have shown at times to be a very competitive team and one that the rest of the OUA should fear.
“We look at ourselves as a pretty good team too. I think if we can bring our performance to its highest level, we can play, compete and win against anyone,” added Nystrom.
The Badgers will end the calendar year at home against the Windsor Lancers on Nov. 30, where they will hope to end 2013 with a big win. The last stretch of games are going to be a battle for Brock but consistency is the key to their season.
“We want to be consistent as a team and that is what we are trying to get better at every week,” said Nystrom.