Some want to change their directions as the new year arrives. However, the Brock Badgers men’s hockey team wanted the exact opposite. After starting off the 2017-2018 campaign with four consecutive losses, the Badgers won four straight to end 2017, and started off 2018 with their first road victory of the season and their fifth straight win. On Friday, Brock defeated the first-place York Lions by a score of 4-2.
Brock avoided disaster to start off the game, coming out strong with an early penalty kill. Using that momentum, just five minutes into the game, Brock opened the scoring. Brandon O’Quinn notched his sixth goal of the season after poor rebound control by York goalie Mack Shields on a Sammy Banga shot left O’Quinn to clean up on the doorstep.
However, just one minute later, a bad bounce off a blocked point shot gave the Lions a two-on-one rush. Colton Vannucci decided to keep the puck for himself and made no mistake sending a wrist shot top shelf to tie up the game.
With just under five minutes to go in the first period, York forward Scott Feser capitalized off a Brock turnover in the defensive zone. He made no mistake snapping a shot that went bar down and left goalie Clint Windsor absolutely no chance at making the save.
While the Badgers certainly could not have been happy to have been down after one period, they were probably lucky to have only been down by one goal. Brock was very undisciplined, taking three penalties, leading to York controlling the majority of possession. What saved Brock was that the Lions looked to run their offense through the point, but the Badgers did an excellent job of clogging up the passing and shooting lanes with active sticks and fearless blocked shots.
In the second period, just 15 seconds in, Brock forward Mack Lemmon was driving the net and as he was trying to cut across the crease, caught Shields in the head. He was given a five-minute major penalty for goaltender interference and in the ensuing fracas, he and Nick Zottl from York were ejected from the game.
“I thought [Lemmon] was angled in and tried to avoid [Shields] at the last minute but they made the call and ejected [Zottl] so it evened out,” said Brock head coach Marty Williamson.
The highlight of the second period came when Brock winger Josh Timpano thought he had an empty net for a tap-in but Shields, showing no ill effects from the earlier collision with Lemmon, brilliantly pushed across the net for a cross-crease save that can only be described as larceny.
As the game progressed into the third period, the atmosphere became more tense as Brock pushed for the equalizer. The breakthrough came via newcomer Cosimo Fontano who fired a one-timer from the faceoff dot to beat the glove of Shields.
“I played hockey in Sweden the year before, and the way that [the OUA] rules are, I have to sit out a calendar year from my last game played, so that’s why I’m starting now. Everybody on this team was very welcoming when I came here. I just wanted to go out there and play good for the boys to come out with the win. To come out here and contribute feels really good because (my teammates and coaches) have helped me prepare for this moment,” said Fontano.
Later on, against a demoralized Lions squad, Conor Brown beat a sprawled-out Shields for the game-winning goal with just four minutes to go, sealing a signature win for the Badgers.
The next day, at home, the Badgers lost to the Guelph Gryphons by a score of 2-1. Sammy Banga scored his seventh goal of the season and Clint Windsor recorded 39 saves on 41 shots.
Williamson knows that every game hereon in is vital to the playoff push, and home games will come at a premium. “We want to move up in the standings, and if you want to move up, you gotta (sic) keep winning.”.
The Brock Badgers Men’s Hockey team play their next home game on January 19 at the Seymour-Hannah Athletic Centre in a rematch against Guelph. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.