The end of the season for the Brock ball hockey team has brought about an interesting predicament for the young squad. Typically, when a season draws to a close the coaching staff and players review and reflect on their past year and try to think of ways that they can improve upon their game. However, Brock’s ball hockey team has been so dominant and relatively unchallenged all year long that it will be difficult for the team to improve in any area of their roster during the offseason.
Going into the 2016/2017 season, the team had won and looked to defend the only provincial championship held by the newly formed OUBHL (Ontario University Ball Hockey League). The Badgers wanted to start off this season with a statement — they were just as good if not better than the team they fielded last year. The Badgers accomplished this goal with amazing success as they came out and dominated their first three games against their close rival, the Carleton Ravens.
The ball hockey schedule is played in series, as two teams play each other multiple times over the course of a weekend. In their weekend opener, the Badgers outscored the Ravens 21-4 after three games. The Badgers would continue with this style of play, dominating their opponents all throughout the season until late November.
It was when the Badgers travelled to Waterloo to take on the Warriors in an away game on November 19 that the team would face adversity for the first time. The Badgers would fall to the Warriors in a low scoring, 3-1 decision.
“The one loss we had was tough because we couldn’t get a lot of guys out that weekend to play in Waterloo” said Adam White, president of the ball hockey team. “We wanted to go undefeated all year but that put an end to it right there. That was the low point of season.”
This was the moment where the Badgers truly defined themselves because it wasn’t long until the team was tested once again. In their next game, the Badgers found themselves losing 5-1 to the Carleton Ravens after only the opening period of the game. It would have been the first season in the OUBHL for the Badgers to lose two consecutive games if the game continued to go poorly for Brock, however, the Badgers did not give up.
“We slowly started scoring to get ourselves back into the game,” said White. “Then we tied it up with 20 seconds left and beat them in a shootout. That was the highlight of the season for a lot of us. It was an eye opener and turning point for the team. We saw that we still need to come out to play and can’t have an attitude where we can just beat everybody. It also showed Carleton why we’re the first place team in the league.”
After this game the team continued to put up big numbers and cruised their way to a 17-1 record to end their regular season easily clenching the top playoff seed.
Recognition must be given to star Anthony Loveless who put up 15 goals and 16 assists in the campaign. Loveless finished with the most points in the entire league. Shane Johns was another impressive offensive force for the Badgers finishing with 10 goals and 6 assists. What is impressive about the Badgers roster is that all but four players contributed goals during the season. This stat is a testament to the true depth that this team had, being able to turn to any player on the floor to find the back of the net is a rare quality for any team.
Going into the playoff weekend, the Badgers were clearly the heavily favoured team to win, so how did the Badgers handle that kind of pressure entering the tournament?
“We just made sure we weren’t content with what we had already accomplished, what was important was what we still had to accomplish,” said head coach Rene Vandenboom. Brock was set in a best of three series against the lower fourth seeded McMaster Marauders in the first round on the weekend of March 10.
The first game was won in typical fashion for the Badgers as they came away with a confident 8-2 win. However, the second game proved to be much more difficult for the Badgers as tension grew throughout the game. “[McMaster does] have a great goalie. In the second game the score was only 1-0 going into the third and we were getting worried because their goalie was [stopping] us all game. We didn’t get down on ourselves. Eventually we broke through. We kept up the pressure and didn’t go down to their level,” said White.
It was through key players stepping up and using their experience to calm the team down that allowed the Badgers to get back into their rhythm and end the game with a 5-0 victory clinching the first series. Kevin Lavallee and Josh Soares lead by example by getting goals, aggressively back checking and giving support where necessary.
The final series saw Brock take on rivals Carleton Ravens for the provincial championship in another three game series. In the first game, the Badgers allowed the Ravens to take an
uncharacteristic two goal lead
“Our leadership group is highly experienced and are very proud to represent Brock. Our success is based in part on how well they respond to adversity,” said Vandenboom.
Once the team settled in they would bounce back from this adversity and finish game one 7-2. They would then sweep the series the following game with a 5-2 win for the gold medal and the OUBHL banner. The Badgers will continue to strive for excellence as they look to make their third consecutive OUBHL championship run in the 2017/2018 season.
“We will continue to scout for new players to increase our skill level. We will also continue to play in outside tournaments and leagues to build our experience base,” said Vandenboom. With only four players on the roster graduating, the Brock squad will likely continue to be the most threatening team in the league.