Winning the Steel Blade Classic is great, but getting the same results during the regular season and into the playoffs is even better. Brock Men’s Hockey, who’ve now won six straight Steel Blade Classics, would be the first to tell you that they’d like to see those same results translate to the playoffs.
In the past five seasons the Badgers have made the playoffs three times, but were unsuccessful in getting out of the first round each time.
In 2014-15, the Badgers took game one of the first round over the Windsor Lancers, but the Lancers would force a game three that saw an overtime loss for the Badgers. In 2013-14, the Badgers would lose game one in overtime, but force a game three versus the Ryerson Rams. However, just like against the Lancers the Badgers could not come through with the win. Then back in 2011-12, Brock lost two straight games to Lakehead, which resulted in an early elimination for the Badgers.
Last year the Badgers won the Steel Blade Classic along with two round robin games against Guelph and Windsor. Yet they opened their season with four straight losses (one in overtime). They’d answer back with three straight wins followed by three straight overtime losses that allowed them to pick up nine points in the standings.
With a younger team during the 2015-16 season, the Badgers looked like a team that could sneak into the playoffs. Then came an injury to Jake Cardwell, which seemed to derail the Badgers. At the time of Cardwell’s injury the Badgers had a 5-6-4 record, but after the defenseman went down the Badgers could only muster one win in their final 14 games.
The men would finish the season with 19 points and last in the OUA West division – with the worst offense in the division and second worst defence. The Badgers will be the first to tell you that it isn’t ideal to finish a season on a ten game losing streak.
Now with a fresh start ahead, the Badgers hope to avoid any long losing streaks. Teams across the OUA have improved over the winter so it doesn’t get easier for the Badgers, but with more depth at the blueline Brock won’t be affected by an individual injury this year.
The key additions at defence are Dexter Weber and Braden Pears. Over the last four seasons, Weber has played in the QMJHL, two seasons each with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Charlottetown Islanders. The six-foot defenseman had a positive plus-minus in three of his four seasons, putting up 11 goals and 85 assists. Pears’ comes over after two seasons with Bowling Green State University.
With Skylar Pacheco, Jeff Corbett and Andrew Coupland back the Badgers will have a strong core four at defence along with Weber. Pears’, Patrick Volpe, Dallas Rossiter and Evan Morden add extra depth.
Offensively the Badgers got a major spark with the return of Andrew Radjenovic. The 6’1 center left the Badgers after the 2014-15 season to play in the ECHL, where he scored five goals and had three assists. In his four season prior with the Bagders, Radjenovic had 36 goals and 35 assists.
Forwards Chris Maniccia, Sammy Banga, Mitch Nardi, Joshua Timpano and Ryan Purvis are entering their fourth seasons with the Badgers, so this would be the year for the Badgers to make a push to make a deep playoff run.
Last season the Badgers were led offensively by Maniccia, who had a team-high 28 points. Nardi had 11 goals and 10 assists and Banga was impressive with six goals and 13 assists.
The Badgers will be tested early as they open their season at home on Oct. 5, versus the York Lions and then host the Western Mustangs on Oct. 8. The Lions finished the 2015-16 season first in the OUA West division with a 16-7-5 record and the Mustangs finished right behind them with an 18-10-0 record. The Badgers will face off against the Lions twice in their first six games.
The season won’t be an easy ride as multiple teams have seen their rosters improve and the battle for one of the eight playoff spots will come right down to the end. The Badgers are hopeful to not miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season.