The last few seasons have not been all too pleasing for Brock women’s hockey, although they have made a couple playoff appearances in the span of the last five years. From 2014-2016 the women have posted a combined 12-31-5 record, missing the playoffs both seasons.
Last year, their playoff hopes were in their own hands as they finished with 28 points, four points out of the eighth seed. The Badgers were chasing the Laurentian Voyageurs for the final spot, and the Voyageurs were almost handing the Badgers the playoff spot. Laurentian would drop their final four games of the season; however Brock was set to conclude their season against highly ranked Guelph and Queen’s. The Badgers would lose both games, leaving them on the outside looking in.
Yet the 2016-2017 season has been different for the Badgers. There seems to be new life around the roster, which averaged 1.5 goals per game in 2015-2016. This year, on the backs of their star first line of Annie Berg, Cara Sayles and Christina Ieradi, the Badgers are averaging 2.6 goals per game through 13 games and they are four goals away from tying their total from last season. However, the Badgers have been without Sayles for their last four games due to an injury.
Coming into this past weekend the Badgers had won three of their last four games, leading them to a 6-4-1 record. On Saturday they took on a struggling Laurier Golden Hawks team who has yet to win a game in regulation all season. Sunday was a much tougher match up for the Badgers, taking on number 10 ranked Waterloo.
With Sayles still out with an injury, the Badgers have had to adjust their lines but everyone on the roster has stepped up around Berg and Ieradi.
Early in the game against Laurier, Berg and Brenna Murphy were able to setup Carley Blomberg for her second goal of the season. The Badgers and Golden Hawks would be tied 1-1 through two periods, but in the third the wheels fell off for the struggling Golden Hawks. Murphy would find Ieradi to make it 2-1, and then Lisa Buratynski made it 3-1 as Kiana Tobia and Blomberg were credited with the assists. Blomberg would put the game away with an empty net goal.
Against the Waterloo Warriors the Badgers knew they would have to find ways to breakdown the Warriors defence, who had only allowed six goals in their last four games.
Tobia would open the scoring for the Badgers, but just like against the Golden Hawks the Badgers allowed the Warriors to tie the game before winning convincingly 4-1. Ieradi would score her team leading eighth goal of the season, then in the third period Berg scored her fifth and sixth goals of the year, one being an empty netter.
“I was reading off of [Berg] and tried to put myself in an open position regardless of what she was going to do with it,” said Ieradi in regards to her goal that was set up by Berg. “She happened to dish it off and I was in the right spot to bury the puck and get a goal to put us ahead in the game.”
There seems to be more chemistry up and down the Badgers lineup this season compared to previous years. Last season the Badgers only had one player finish the season with five or more goals, but this year Ieradi, Berg and Sayles have already reached that milestone. As a team the Badgers had a total of 41 assists in 2015-2016, but have already surpassed that mark this year with 48 assists so far.
Even the goaltending has been much better for the Badgers behind second year Jensen Murphy. In 11 games, Murphy has a 2.01 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Backup Stephanie Loukes has also been impressive in two games giving up only one goal and making 45 saves. Third string goalie Julia Pettella also performed impressively in her one game, shutting out UOIT in a 19 save game.
The Badgers will close out the 2016 portion of their schedule with five wins in six games, adding to a 8-4-1 record. They currently sit fourth in the OUA with 22 points with 11 games to play in 2017. Of the 11 games left, six of the games will be played against teams currently sitting outside of a playoff spot.
Last year the Badgers closed out the season with a 6-5 record in their final 11 games, but with a more talented roster this year and a light schedule in 2017 the Badgers may only get better from here.