Badgers 4-peat as RBC Steel Blade Champions

The Brock Badgers Men’s hockey team kicked off Brock University’s 50th anniversary homecoming weekend with a 6-4 victory over the Guelph Gryphons on Thursday.  On Sunday, they beat the Gryphons again in improbable fashion to win their fourth straight Steel Blade Classic.  In last year’s Steel Blade Classic, it was senior #25 Matt Abercrombie who led the Badgers comeback from 5-1 down to score a natural hat trick, winning the Steel Blade Classic for the Badgers in overtime 6-5. On Sunday, it was a new #25, Yanni Rattis, who scored the game winner as the Badgers came back from down 3-0 to win 4-3.  The Steel Blade Classic began in 1999, and is an annual tournament hosted by Brock University in which a Steel Blade sword — a donation from the Werner family of Niagara — is presented as a trophy at the conclusion of the championship. The sword is an 1803 pattern, non-commissioned officer’s “hanger.” The sword was carried by sergeants of the Upper Canada Artillery Units and Royal Artillery during the war of 1812.

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On Thursday, the Badgers kicked off the RBC Steel Blade Classic with a win over the Guelph Gryphons 6-4. Andrew Radjenovic exploded for a hat trick, as well as an assist for a four – point night. Badgers rookie Clinton Windsor made his badger’s debut in goal and recorded 26 saves for the victory.  Friday night, the Badgers went right back at it against the reigning OUA Champion Windsor Lancers. Thanks to the help from Isaac’s Army, 1,534 Badgers fans came out and packed the Seymour Hannah Centre to help support the team. After a tightly checked first two periods, the score was tied up at 1. However, Badgers star player from Thursday night, Radjenovic, was back at it again as he popped home the game—winning goal midway through the third period leading the Badgers to a 2-1 victory, guaranteeing their spot in Sunday’s championship game.

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Saturday night, the Guelph Gryphons punched their ticket to Sunday’s championship game with a victory over the Windsor Lancers with one minute left in double overtime.  On Sunday, the Badgers got off to a rough start when starting goaltending Real Cormier allowed the first two shots he faced to go by him, giving the Gryphons a 2-0 lead.  The Gryphons would add another before the conclusion of the first period to make it 3-0, but the Badgers would come storming back in the second with two straight goals by rookie Gregory Jambrosich that were both assisted by senior Jordan Gignac. In the third period, it was Andrew Radjenovic’s turn to join the goal party as he would tie the hockey game with 4:26 into the period. Then with 1:22 left in regulation time, rookie Yanni Rallis scored the championship goal right in the slot, giving the Badgers their fourth consecutive Steel Blade Championship.  In its 15-year history, the Badgers have raised the Steel Blade eight times (1999, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014).

STEEL BLADE FINALS
1999 — Brock 5, Niagara 5
2000 — Guelph 5, Brock 3
2001 — Brock 4, Ryerson 2
2002 — Ryerson 4, Brock 2
2003 — Western Michigan 5, Brock 1
2004 — Mount Royal 4, Brock 3 (OT)
2005 — Waterloo 3, UBC 2
2006 — Brock 4, Waterloo 2
2007 — UNB 7, Waterloo 1
2008 — Brock 3, Concordia 2 (OT)
2009 — Guelph 4, Brock 1
2010 — Guelph 5, Brock 1
2011 — Brock 4, St. Mary’s 1
2012 — Brock 5, Guelph 2
2013 — Brock 6, Laurier 5 (OT)
2014 — BROCK 4, GUELPH 3

Keys to think about:

1) Who’s the starting goaltender? The biggest question going into the regular season is who will be the starting goalie, backup and third string netminder between returnees Adrian Volpe and Real Cormier, along with newcomer Clinton Windsor. All three goalies had a game to prove themselves to their head coach Murray Nystrom, and all three goalies provided solid effort and came out with a victory.  Even though Nystrom hasn’t made any sign of which goaltender he will go with when the Badgers season opens at Waterloo on Oct 2nd, the assumption is Adrian Volpe will get the first opportunity to run with the starting role. Volpe was incredible Friday night against the Lancers, allowing just one goal while stopping 30 shots, and posting a .967 save percentage.

2) Cuts still need to be made; Captain Mike McGurk, and Dan Tanel lead the Badgers on the back end, but there are still eight other defenseman on the Brock Badgers current roster, which head coach Murray Nystrom would like to cut down to six for the beginning of the season. Newcomers Patrick Volpe, Even Morden, Tyler Anton, and returnees Anthony Geldart, Dan MacEachern, Milan Doczy, Brandon Kerr, and Thomas Welsh are all fighting to impress the eyes of their head coach to earn a spot on the team. As far as the forwards are concerned, there are currently 15 with the squad and Nystrom continues to say that a maximum of one forward will be let go, if any at all.

3) Are the Badgers for real?

Hockey_BB_04Winning 3 games in a row over the course of four days to start your season, including defeating the reigning OUA Champion Windsor Lancers, is certainly something to be proud of, however this is only preseason. All three teams in the tournament were trying a lot of different line combinations, power play/penalty kill units and goalie tandems, just to get a feel for what chemistry is going to lead to success when it comes to the regular season. However, it’s great to see several Badger rookies coming into their own and playing in mid-season form, while all leading to one common goal, victory.

The Badgers will now get some much needed rest before they open their season against the Waterloo Warriors on Oct 2. The Gryphons will be back in St. Catharines the next time the Badgers have a home game, which will be their regular season home opener on Oct 17.

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