Love. Strength. Hope. Courage. Faith. These were the words that were emblazoned in white across the neon pink backings of the special jerseys the Brock Badgers women’s hockey team wore this past Friday night. As part of Brock’s Breast Cancer Awareness Weekend across the women’s hockey, volleyball and basketball teams who all played at home this weekend, the team wore special jerseys and sold pink Badger t-shirts with all proceeds going to charity. In a special pregame ceremony, the Badgers honoured breast cancer victim Oonagh Hastie with the presentation of a bursary in her namesake.
Voted on by the coaches and players, “The winner is someone who exhibits the all around sportsmanship, leadership, and skill that Oonagh demonstrated as an original member of the Niagara Women’s Recreational Hockey League.” After captain Brenna Murphy was the winner last year, this year’s recipient was forward Kailey Peirson.
At the Seymour-Hannah Centre on Friday against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, although the Badgers came out with intensity and effort, their share of the possession was not translating into any quality scoring chances. Just after a Blues tripping penalty by forward Becki Bowering, the first penalty in the game with just over five minutes remaining in the first period, the Badgers power play quickly turned disastrous. Off the faceoff, the defensemen botched a pass across the blue line. Freshman Louie Bieman made no mistake on her breakaway leaving goalie Jensen Murphy little chance.
The Badgers had their chance to get the goal back shortly after as defensemen Julia Szulewska took a cross-checking penalty to give the Badgers a five-on-three advantage for just over a minute. Like the rest of the period, the Badgers dominated the play but were just unable to get the shot they wanted. The Blues clogged up the shooting lanes and played discipline defense on the penalty kill.
With just over a minute left in the first period, a seemingly innocent rush up the wing proved to be lethal for Toronto as Kassie Roache got the puck past the glove of southpaw Murphy. After a period where Brock undoubtedly outplayed the Blues, their reward was a 2-0 deficit at the first intermission.
Then, the Badgers took two penalties in the first minute of the second period, and the Blues used their two-man advantage to extend their lead to three on Kiyono Cox’s first goal of the season.
Later in the second period, Brock had their chance again as the Blues ran into more penalty trouble and this time, they seized their opportunity. With Toronto taking two penalties back-to-back, the Badgers had their second two-man advantage of the game, and captain Brenna Murphy notched her first goal of the season. She displayed pinpoint accuracy when the puck fell on her stick on the goal line to the side of the net, and she was able to pick the top corner when it seemed goalie Madeline Albert had all the gaps closed. The Badgers scored while on a delayed penalty, so they had another two-man advantage off the faceoff. This time, a brilliant cross-crease pass by Annie Berg to Christina Ieradi left Ieradi an open net for her eight goal of the season.
In the third period, play went back-and-forth with little action as the Blues turned towards a very conservative approach with the lead in such a crucial game for them. In the end, Toronto picked up three very big points in the standings. There are currently nine teams battling for eight playoff spots. Currently, Waterloo is the team on the outside looking in, sitting five points behind fifth-place Brock. The Warriors have four games in hand, so by winning percentage, Brock is actually in that ninth spot. Head Coach Margot Page knows that the final four games are only going to get more and more important.
“The second half (of the season) is all about playoff hockey. It’s all about do-or-die.” Coach Page could not be more accurate.
The Brock Badgers have one home game remaining when they face the York Lions in their season finale on February 17. Puck drop is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. at the Seymour-Hannah Centre.