Brock Men’s Hockey opened up Homecoming with their 18th annual Steel Blade Classic this past Friday. The event has always been a memorable event, but this year was certainly one for the history books as they faced off against the Guelph Gryphons for the third consecutive year.
This was the first year ever that Brock had the chance to play at a much larger venue, the Meridian Centre, in which the Badgers broke a new attendance record with 3,532 students, alumni, and local community, making this event the third biggest hockey event in CIS history. The attendance record topped Brock’s previous high at the Meridian Centre, which came last year when 2,887 people were in attendance for Brock Basketball.
The pregame started off with Director of Brock Sports Neil Lumsden, BUSU President Patrick Foster and other BUSU members walking out on to the freshly painted Badger Logo at center ice in which Lumsden thanked the BUSU staff for helping organize the event. Interim President of Brock University Brian Hutchings also welcomed to the ice parliament members of the Niagara region to contribute to the ceremonial faceoff.
Moments later, the real puck drop began and you could feel the excitement build as the building vibrated from the immense cheering from the Brock crowd.
With just 5:29 minutes of play in the first period, the Guelph Gryphons opened up the scoring from Wyatt Trainer which was assisted from Peter Soligo and Emmanual Gialedakis.
After the goal, the Badgers spent the majority of the period laying down some solid checks making it evident that they were wearing down the Gryphons.
With five minutes remaining in the period, the Badgers were able to tie the game as Skylar Pacheco made a nice assist to Chris Maniccia as he was able to capitalize on a power play goal.
Heading into the second period, there was very little action until 9:32 remaining in the period. Brock player Mack Lemmon took a vicious hit to the head by Guelph player Joshua McFadden, which resulted in a line-brawl from the team.
After a few minutes went by of trying to pull players apart, the game was put on delay. The excited crowd pushed against the glass causing it to fall out of place. After about a 25-minute delay to replace the glass, the team was brought back to the ice and the penalties from the fight were announced.
McFadden was given a five-minute penalty for a check to the head and a game misconduct. In total there were five game misconducts each given to the Badgers and Gryphons.
Once the game went back into action, the Badgers were able to take the lead for the first time as Pacheco, Braden Pears and Matt MacLeod had excellent tic-tac-toe passing giving MacLeod the goal.
The heat was still raging between the Badgers and Gryphon’s as Brock’s Sammy Banga and Guelph’s Seth Swenson dropped the gloves after some pushing and shoving
The Badgers 2-1 lead was short lived as the Gryphons came back and tied the game again with 1:30 remaining in the period. Zackary McFadden was given a solid pass from Gialedakis, giving McFadden a power play goal resulting from the penalty issued during the previous fight.
As the game went into the third period, it seemed as if the Badgers were going to lose the battle as Guelph was able to take the lead with just 6:50 remaining in the period after Blaize Bridges would give his team the lead 3-2. With some fans certain that the Badgers were going to lose, the crowd started leaving the stadium, but even with some fans gone, Brock would come back and tie the game yet again with a breakaway goal from MacLeod. The Meridian Centre became just as loud as when the game first started after the tying goal with only 5:50 left in the period.
With less than five nail-biting minutes remaining in the third period, Brock’s Adam Lloyd would take a shot on net in which Guelph’s goalie Scott Stajcer would deflect the puck into his own net. The goal gave the Badgers a 4-3 lead with 4:18 left in regulation, which the Badgers would finish off and collect the win.
The player of the game was given to Brock’s Matt MacLeod. Originally from Niagara Falls, MacLeod played for St. Thomas University last year until making his return and first debut as a Badger this year. MacLeod recorded two goals for the evening in which the men’s head coach Murray Nystrom explained MacLeod’s goals as “his own Homecoming,” as he was playing with his friends and family in attendance that evening.
When asked how it felt to be playing in front of such a large local crowd, MacLeod said, “It was really cool, a couple of the guys and I were talking saying it felt just like junior hockey again which is a nice feeling because you don’t get that every game playing university hockey. It was a nice feeling, having a lot of family and friends here tonight.”
Overall, a lot of people referred to the evening’s game as “old fashioned hockey” with such a tough, competitive, physical game. When asked about the hit to the head on Lemmon, Nystrom explained the hit as “vicious” and that the league is trying to cut down on hits like that.
But overall Nystrom was more than happy to accept the victory.
“It was a bit of an erratic game,” said Nystrom. “I think the break in between the second period didn’t help at all. We were really on a roll and we just never seemed to consistently get back to that, but a win is a win. Clint made some key saves under pressure in the third period, MacLeod comes up with a last minute goal at the right time on a simple play. It’s the simple plays that get things done and it resulted in a win. It wasn’t the prettiest game that’s for sure but we had enough good things to win and that’s what we need.”
In goal, Brock’s starting goaltender Clint Windsor turned aside 29 shots, including 12 in the final period for the victory. Stajcer registered 28 saves in the loss.
The Steel Blade Classic has certainly been an exciting annual game for the Badgers as this was their sixth consecutive win. This was the Badgers third year in a row defeating the Gryphons by a score of 4-3. With the way the venue, crowd, and overall game itself turned out to be, it looks as if this year’s Steel Blade Classic will be remembered for years to come