Entering his 17th season as Brock’s men’s hockey coach, Murray Nystrom has seen it all, not only as a coach, but from his long playing career as well. As the Badger coach, Nystrom has seen the team’s ups and downs during his tenure. Entering the 2015-2016 season, Nystrom knows that the OUA west division is up for grabs, even if his team is young and in a growing period.
“We have 15 guys that are in their first or second years,” said Nystrom. “It’s a fairly new group of players and that’s exciting, but it takes time.”
Last season, the Badgers got off to a strong 8-7-2 start before finishing their last 10 games with a 2-8 record. A lot of the issues came with the goals against for Brock as they allowed 4.3 goals per game, which ranked third last in all of the OUA.
“We need to improve in our goals against to put ourselves in a position that we are not scraping and clawing to get into the playoffs,” said Nystrom.
Heading into the new season, the Badgers will have seven of their nine defensemen in first or second year. Nystrom made it his goal over the summer to improve the team at the blue-line and hopes as the year goes on that the new guys will grow into a stronger presence.
“We looked at that and felt it was an area our team needed to get better at,” said Nystrom. “One of the emphasis for the position was we wanted mobility. We wanted guys that could skate and move the puck.”
The new defensemens include Jake Cardwell, a second year transfer from Carleton University, Jeff Corbett from the Sudbury Wolves (OHL), Skylar Pacheco from British Columbia and Andrew Coupland, who Nystrom says had a really good career at the Junior A level.
“Those guys automatically make our back-end a lot better, because what they bring skill wise,” said Nystrom. “Then we had in Dallas Rossiter, who’s big, strong and probably more suited on the defensive side of the game, but has the ability to move the puck and move himself.”
To open up preseason play, the Badgers won their fifth straight Steelblade Classic in front of large Badger crowds. Playing against their own divisional teams, the Badgers had a perfect 3-0 record, and looked dominant on both sides of the ice.
Then, they travelled out east to play two games versus Acadia University and one against Universite De Moncton. The trip was not as successful as the Badgers hoped as they lost all three games.
“We saw everything, from the good to the bad to the ugly and the average,” said Nystrom. “I thought out of the nine periods we played six very good periods. Going 0-3 is never something we want to do and moving forward we have to play nine out of nine.”
The men’s final preseason game was played in Ohio as they faced off against Ohio State University. This was a game Nystrom said would clear up who the team’s starting goaltender will be for the year. The team dropped the game 4-0 finishing preseason with a 3-4 record.
“Most of our focus has been on building and moving our team in a direction to challenge for the OUA and I think we’re doing that,” said Nystrom. “We’re going to have to play our best at the right time.”
Even with a young roster, Nystrom sees the upcoming season as an opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs.
The Badgers will open the season in Waterloo on October 8 beginning at 7:30 p.m. The home opener for Brock is Oct. 9 versus Western at the Seymour-Hannah Centre, with the puck to drop at 7:15 p.m