What started as a historic first half for the Brock Badgers women’s hockey team slowly slipped away to a seventh-seeded playoff team fighting to keep their season alive against one of the top teams in the country. Despite some of the positives that head coach Margot Page and her team experienced, the Badgers season came to a close this weekend as Guelph swept the playoff series in two games.
Brock and Guelph split their regular season series, with Brock taking game one in November 1-0, and Guelph taking game two on February 1, 1-0 in overtime. Both teams were able to find a bit more offense in the playoff series, with Guelph taking game one 2-1 and game two 3-2.
When asked to reflect on the season as a whole, head coach Margot Page said that the team is taking strides.
“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction of where we want to be, we’re getting some buy in, we’re still having some struggles in our culture change, but we have to make sure we’re making strides moving forwards. I think it’s a positive season, it’s a roller coaster season, we learned a ton, and you move on and get ready for next year.”
Through the first half of the season, Brock found themselves ranked tenth nationally and sitting at the top of the OUA standings just behind Queen’s. Brock went 3-1-0 in October, won six games in November (only losing two), before dropping their final two games of the first half. Still, the Badgers had wins against Guelph and Western, and looked to be one of the best teams in the league. The second half, however, the Badgers went 3-7, and finished seventh overall in the OUA standings, just barely making the playoffs.
Junior goaltender Jensen Murphy had a .945 save percentage in the first half of the season, starting all 14 games. She had two shutouts, and had a 1.50 goals against average. In the second half, however, in nine starts Murphy gave up 24 goals for a goals against average of 2.67, and her save percentage dropped to .926.
Though the Badgers boosted their goals for average in the second half of the season (from 1.71 to 2.0), it wasn’t enough. The Badgers were shutout four times in 24 games, and held to just one goal six times on the season.
“The takeaway is, we were really prepared for the start of the season, we were in shape, I don’t think teams expected us to be pretty good, a lot of things were clicking for us, that sort of thing, lots of positives, but as you keep pushing and there are changes, you get to exam time and you focus on exams and Christmas and not the task at hand. The second half is always the toughest part, and you have to be zoned in, it becomes how you handle that pressure of being a target, and we didn’t handle it that well. We kept losing games, we had battles with each other, which you need to have a good team, they worked their butt off when they needed to and got in [to playoffs], we’re happy with how they played Guelph, but there’s not much you can do.”
What can fans expect from the Badgers next season? It’s hard to tell. The Badgers only have five senior players graduating (goaltender Stephanie Loukes, defensemen Alex Finlayson, defensemen Lisa Buratynski, forward Kailey Peirson, and forward Christina Ieradi). They were lead in points this season by Christina Ieradi with 18, while sophomore Annie Berg and junior Amanda Ieradi were tied in second on the team with 14 points. While Loukes graduates, Brock returns starting goaltender Jensen Murphy as well as back-up goaltender Julia Pettella. Murphy started 23 regular season games this season for the Badgers, and played in both playoff games, ranking first in the OUA in games played (23), games started (23) and saves (732). Berg played in 24 regular season games this season and last, but her point total dropped by ten this season (24 in 2016-17, 14 in 2017-18), scoring 11 goals her first season and only two this season. The Badgers will need much more scoring from their top players next season in order to compete with the likes of Queen’s, Guelph, and Western.
Page said that the team will have a week or two off, but after that, returning players will start working for next season.
“We’re only losing four skaters as of right now, two defensemen and two forwards, we’ll have three possibly four defensemen coming in, one is trying to get eligibility back from the United States. We’ve learned we’ll be keeping a bigger roster next year, we didn’t this year, but [for returning players] now it’s we’ve seen what you’ve done and we go from there.”