Brock women’s hockey is looking to find their identity again after a winless weekend moves them further away from their early season success. With a 2-5 record in their last seven games, the Badgers will be slipping out of the national rankings this week. Following a strong 9-3 start to the season, the team on the ice this weekend didn’t look like one that belonged in the national rankings. More importantly, the Badgers aim for a playoff spot has gone from a sure-thing to a mere hope. With only five games remaining on their regular season schedule, things are about to get tougher.
Brock’s remaining schedule includes Toronto (who currently holds the final OUA playoff spot with 29 points), nationally-ranked Guelph (winners of seven straight), Nippissing (winners of eight of their last 10), Laurentian (winners of six straight) and York — whom the Badgers narrowly beat in a shootout two weeks ago. Brock currently sits fifth in the OUA conference standings with 32 points, but the three teams behind them are knocking on the doorstep: sixth place Ryerson has 30 points, while Laurentian and Toronto both have 29 points.
Brock played host to Waterloo on Saturday, and despite a 2-1 lead after the first period, the Badgers gave up five unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes — including a power-play goal and an empty netter. After the lopsided 6-2 loss to the Warriors, the Badgers slump continued into Sunday with a loss to Ryerson.
The Badgers came up short in a 4-3 loss to the Rams — despite a valiant effort in the final minutes of the game. Goaltender Jensen Murphy gave up four goals on 29 shots, including a goal scored from behind the goal line, and another from centre ice that somehow bounced it’s way in. Murphy, who seemed off her game in more instances than just the two odd goals, gave up nine goals this weekend — the most in a weekend in her entire career at Brock.
“She gives us a chance to win every single time she goes in the net, but it’ll bother her because she’s a perfectionist. She always bounces back and does well, I’m not worried about her,” said head coach Margot Page of her goaltender.
Though the bounces didn’t go the Badgers way this weekend, the pace of their play after a timeout midway through the third period was exactly what they needed. Page was optimistic about her team’s play in the final 10 minutes of the game. Brock shifted the momentum their way after the fourth goal, and had numerous chances to get the equalizer.
“[After the timeout] they were on fire, and I just feel badly for our team because they played so well, and a couple of bad bounces went in,” Page said of the team’s play late in the third.
Though Page was impressed with the team’s play on Sunday, she acknowledged that the way they’ve played since their loss to Western on December 2 is that of a team trying to get a playoff spot, not trying to keep one.
The playoff picture is completely up in the air in the OUA, as Waterloo – behind Brock by only five points -have played only 16 games, while Brock and Western (who both hold playoff spots right now) have played 19 games each.
“We have to make the playoffs first, and we’re not even close to that,” said Page. “The slump happened before the break [and] we don’t have that win at all costs mentality. [The] second half should all be about ‘this is playoff hockey’, and finally today (Sunday) I think we did it. That was the fire we needed.”
“We have five games left and we’ll see. If we deserve to be there, we’ll be there, and if we don’t we don’t,” said Page about the teams playoff chances. “We were all the way up there and look now, for us it’s learning not how to chase that playoff spot, but how to hold it, and play with the mentality that you should be there.”
Brock will have to find a way to play the way they did in the final 10 minutes of the Ryerson game this weekend for their remaining games if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. The next stretch of games may be the toughest they’ve had all season, and everything is at stake.
When asked about whether or not the leadership on this team is prepared to help make the push for playoffs in the last five games, Page’s response was: “I guess we’ll see.”