Badgers playoff hopes slipping away

THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

Picking up three out of a possible four points on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 against the University of Ontario Institute Technology and Queens Golden Gaels put the Badgers in great shape. The Badgers had 20 points through their first 19 games, and were sitting in fifth place in the OUA west with a chance to get into fourth with a win over Ryerson.

Fast forward to today, Jan. 27; the Badgers have lost six of their last seven games, now sitting in seventh place, and they can no longer control their own destiny to ensure they finish in the top eight to make the playoffs. The Badgers were crushed in Toronto against Ryerson 8-4 on Jan. 15. The next night they were in Guelph to face the ninth place Gryphons and lost to them for the second straight time this season, 6-4.

This past week, the Badgers were back at it, facing the top two teams in the OUA West division. First up were the Western Mustangs on Jan. 21. Goaltending has been a real issue as of late with the Badgers allowing 14 goals in their previous two contests going into this one. Clint Windsor started against Ryerson, Adrian Volpe got the nod versus Guelph, and it was Real Cormier’s chance to steal the spotlight against Western.

Just 3:38 into the first period, the Mustangs would strike first on a one-timer goal by Noah Schwartz. Just over two minutes later, Western would score again on a goal by Trevor Warrnaar. A minute later, the offensive explosion would continue, this time for the Badgers as Taylor Fielding would notch home a rebound to cut the Mustang lead in half at 2-1. Seven minutes later, the Mustangs would answer back with two more goals, one on the power play from Schwartz, and the other from Stefan Salituro which chased Cormier from the net.

Adrian Vople finished off the first period for the Badgers in goal, but it would be Cormier back between the pipes to start the second period, which was a wild one. While there was no scoring in the second period, there was a total of 38 penalty minutes from the two teams combined, including two vicious checking to the head penalties by the Badgers Kaine Geldart, and Andrew Radjenovic. The penalties resulted in five-minute major penalties, game misconducts, and one game suspensions. The Mustangs’ Cody Brown, who was blindsided in the middle of the ice, was taken to the hospital on a stretcher. It was later announced that he had broken his collar bone and was concussed.

In the third period, after the Mustangs scored a quick marker to make it 5-1, the Badgers scored two straight, just 1:33 apart by Gregory Jambrosich, and Dylan MacEachern. It wouldn’t be enough as the Mustangs take on two more late period tally’s to take the game by a final score of 7-3.

After the game, a rather frustrating Badger head coach Murray Nystrom tried to explain the struggles his team has had in 2015.

“It’s almost a mirror since all of our games after Christmas. We’re in parts of the game, we’re even dominating at some stages, but we just can’t seem to keep it at that level. Whether we regress in positional play, or decision making, or discipline, something always seems to expose us, and against good teams like Western they take advantage of that. Kudos to them.”

On Jan. 23, the reigning OUA Champions, the Windsor Lancers, came to St. Catharines to take on the Badgers. After Cormier allowed seven goals versus Western, it was Volpe’s chance once again to steal the starting job.

After a tight checking first period that resulted in no score, Drew Palmer would pick up the first tally of the game for Windsor at the 11:42 mark of the second period, squeaking the wrist shot past Volpe. Rookie sensation Dylan Denomme would make it 2-0 for the Lancers half-way through the third period. However, the third period has been the Badgers best all season long, and they would respond right back when Tyson Dallman netted a one-timer to make the score 2-1. After a flury of chances at the buzzer, the Badgers couldn’t tie up the hockey game, and have now lost four straight. Volpe was dominate in net for the Badgers, giving them a chance to win, turning aside 34 Lancer shots in the loss. The Badgers continue to struggle on special teams, going 0-4 on the power-play in the game.

Despite Nystrom being happy with his teams efforts, he knows it’s up to his players to really want it, in order to pick up points down the stretch.

“What we’re going to do going forward is up to us. This is a pattern that’s occurred since the U of T game after Christmas and we’ve got to get righted for sure,” said Nystrom. “We need consistency not only game to game, period to period, but shift to shift.”

When asking Nystrom if he feels his teams playoff hopes are dwindling away after the Badgers fourth straight loss, he said, “we’re only five points out of 4th place, which is a home playoff game.”

Next up for the Badgers is a home game on Friday Jan. 30 against the Waterloo Warriors at 7:15 p.m. at the Seymour Hannah. Then, Saturday they will be in Waterloo to take on the Laurier Golden Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Both games can been seen live on oua.tv

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