As their season has come to an end, the men’s hockey team struggled to walk away with enough wins to get into the playoffs. Overall they had a difficult season, putting themselves last in the OUA Western conference with a discouraging 10 game losing streak. But their standings aren’t a true reflection of how they played throughout the season. The Badgers had some high-points during their struggles, but the low points eventually it would cost them a playoff berth.
In an interview, head coach Murray Nystrom commented that there were three major low points for the team: missing the playoffs, lacking offensive output, and giving up more five-on-five goals than expected.
The OUA West division is an extremely tight conference and it is extremely difficult to base off who is likely to make the playoffs or not. The point system between teams is very close and it can be only a matter of one point that gets a team into the playoffs or not. Despite this, the Badgers did indeed put up a good fight when playing teams that are currently playing in postseason right now. Coach Nystrom explained that, despite their best efforts to make it to the playoffs the lesson learned is that “competing” was simply not enough to guarantee a post-season spot.
Another factor that hurt the Badgers was the lack of offensive output. In terms of statistics the Badgers were behind their opponents, they were both shooting less and scoring less than their competitors. Overall, the Badgers were averaging 2.5 goals per game, .073 shot percentage and 69 total goals. On average, their opponents were averaging 3.8 goals per game, a .096 shot percentages and a total of 106 goals for the season.
One reason that could have been contributed to the Badgers letdown was the loss of player Jake Cardwell. Cardwell was a transfer from Carleton who did wonders for the Badgers but his season ended early due to a serious injury.
“Losing Jake Cardwell to a season ending injury after playing only 14 games hurt us more than we thought it would,” commented Coach Nystrom. “He was a true offensive catalyst. He still finished the season fourth in team scoring.”
Cardwell finished his season with 6 goals, 11 assists and 17 points.
An aspect that also contributed to the Badgers early ending season was giving up more five-on five goals than anticipated. As stated earlier, the Badgers were shooting and scoring less than their opponents.
“I think we gave up seven empty net goals in total, but in the end, combined with lower offensive numbers, we needed less goals against to influence the win/loss columns,” said Nystrom.
Despite the low points that the Badgers faced this season, their record truly didn’t reflect how they played on the ice. The Badgers played shift to shift with mental toughness and with dedication. Despite their 10 game losing streak, those games weren’t blown out games. The Badgers fought the whole 60 minutes and those games were only lost by only a goal or two. They competed against their opponents and proved they weren’t going to walk away without a fight.
“I think the fact that we competed every game despite our record, [was a highpoint for our team],” explained Nystrom. “I can only think of two or three games that I was disappointed with our effort. In fact, 17 of our 28 games were decided by two goals or less and eight of those went to overtime. It means you we were ‘right there’ most nights.”
But credit must be given to the Badgers as they had a young roster. On the roster 19 of the 24 players were first or second year players so it’s given that there were going to be some challenges and growing pains that would have to be faced.
For a team that was fairly new to the Badgers roster, they certainly proved their skill this season. Players such as Ryan Purvis had an outstanding year ending the season with four goals, four assists and eight points overall.
“He is a heart and soul player and evolved into a great penalty killer for us. His energy and creation of offensive chances was a result of his hard work,” said Nystrom.
Other players who had an outstanding season considering certain circumstances were Tyson Dallman and Patrick Volpe. Both players played their season with serious injuries. Volpe suffered a shot to the foot during a game which resulted in a broken foot in November, but he came back with everything he had. Dallman suffers daily with a chronic shoulder injury and so coach Nystrom is baffled as to how Dallman manages to still play most days.
Players who also played extremely well this season were Chris Maniccia and Mitch Nardi. Both players were playing their first year with the Badgers alongside with Skylar Pacheco and Brody Silk. Although it was a transitional season for them, they proved to be great assets for the Badgers. Nardi ended the season first in goals with 11 goals, 10 assists and 21 points. Maniccia finished with eight goals, 20 assists and 28 points. Pacheco ended with 5 goals, 12 assists and 17 points and Silk ended his season with five goals, five assists and 10 points.
A player that will be missed by all is team captain Dan Tanel as he had a very good fifth year ending the season and career with the Badgers with two goals, six assists and eight points.
With any team there are always obstacles that have to be faced and worked upon. When asked what were some issues the Badgers had, Coach Nystrom explained, “I think as the losses mounted, we struggled with confidence. At times it seemed nothing would go in our favour whether it be a bounce, an officials call or a goal against. I think missing the playoffs this year is an expensive price to pay but with serve the team well in the next two, three seasons. As the group matures, we will be able to reflect on those times and appreciate the wins it will help us earn.”
As the team had reading week off, they will reconvene and begin the preparation process for next season, which included goal setting and off ice training. As of right now, the recruiting process is in full swing, as Coach Nystrom and his team will be recruiting until Labour Day.
“We have only three players graduating this year: a goalie (Real Cormier), a defensemen (Dan Tanel) and a forward (Jamie Kendra). So we have a chance to be a very selective and ensure the players we bring to Brock will have an immediate impact and help us be successful through the entire season,” said Nystrom.
Assistant Sports Editor