The Brock women’s hockey team had an interesting season which saw the team ride some impressive highs as well as some difficult lows. Before the season even began, the team received massive hype and the program was buzzing with news that an NCAA hockey prospect had joined the Brock roster. Annie Berg turned down scholarship opportunities in the United States in order to pursue a post secondary education closer to home. Just like that, she became a highly anticipated source of offence for this team.
Coming off of her impressive rookie season and now getting the chance to start on a regular basis, goaltender Jensen Murphy was another star to look out for heading into October.
Winning their first preseason game 1-0 against Laurentian, and then also coming out with a victory in their season opener 3-2 against Ryerson, it seemed like this combination of shutdown goaltending and transitioning offence would be a winning combination for the Badgers. For the most part, this was entirely true for the first half of the season. A quarter way through their season, the Badgers found themselves just below a .500 winning percentage with a 3-4 record. It wasn’t the explosive start that they were hoping for, but all of their early season games were low scoring and close decisions. However, after a few months of experimenting with line combinations, the team began to find some undeniable chemistry. From November 5 to November 27 the Badgers won five of six games. During this six game run the Badgers would outscore their opponents 19-9 and bring their team comfortably within a playoff spot in the standings. At this point, the Badgers had proven that they were a resilient group that wouldn’t fold under pressure as they were 2-0 in overtime play.
Much of this relentless offence came from the highly talked about line of Berg, Cara Sayles and Christina Ieradi. This line put up big numbers every game and in the end of the season they had the stats to show for it. Ieradi and Berg led the team in goals with 11 each, both finishing within the top ten in the OUA for goals scored. In fact, Berg finished seventh in total points in the OUA. Sayles also has to be commended on her eight goals and 11 assists she contributed throughout the campaign.
Heading into the winter break, the Badgers found themselves well within a playoff spot with a thriving 8-5 record. Remember, the team was trending towards the winning column with five massive wins that were all nearly back-to-back. That is why everyone was surprised when the Badgers dropped their 2017 opener against the Laurier Golden Hawks in a 3-1 loss. However, we couldn’t continue to blame the Badgers’ performance on a long break, as rustiness in the next few games gave similar results. The Badgers wouldn’t get their first win in 2017 until January 28 after losing four straight. Simply put, the team stopped producing offensive opportunities. Game after game, the Badgers struggled to put more than two goals on the scoreboard and only surpassed three goals once during the remainder of the season. That chemistry that the Badgers had right before the holiday break was gone and the Badgers began dropping games to lesser teams.
Overall, the team finished their season with an 11-10-3 record situating them in ninth place in their conference, only four points shy of the last playoff spot which was won by the Windsor Lancers. In terms of wins in a season, this is the best outing for the Badgers in five years since the 2011/12 season when they achieved 12 wins. However, with this passing season, the Badgers miss out on a third consecutive postseason. Although, if you look at this team’s schedule, it’s not a matter of whether or not this team can compete. The Badgers defeated the U-sports eighth ranked Nippissing Lakers twice in the regular season. We know that the building blocks are there for a playoff team and we know that this team can compete with and overcome nationally ranked opponents. It’s depth in their offence that this team is missing. Whether the defence gets more involved or lines need to be adjusted, the Badgers need to spread their scoring opportunities around the ice.
With their current configuration, the Badgers managed to finish ninth in scoring and shots on net, 10th in assists and sixth in power-play goals in the OUA. These offensive stats roughly represent the Badgers final place in their conference standings and need to be an area of focus for the 2017/2018 season. However, one bright spot the Badgers can always rally around in any game situation is their outstanding goaltender, Murphy. Finishing fifth in the league for save percentage (.936%) and allowing 1.96 goals per game, Murphy was always a reliable player for the Badgers to feed off of if they got down. She leads the league with 655 saves, nearly 100 more than the next goalie. It will be exciting to see how this team adjusts during the offseason and follow where they go in the future.