After a thrilling 2-1 series win over the York Lions, a spot in the Queen’s Cup isn’t the only destination for the Badgers following their strong showing through the first three rounds of the OUA playoffs. The Badgers have also earned a spot at the U SPORTS national championships in New Brunswick (March 15-18) — their first appearance at the tournament and in the Queen’s Cup since the 2007-08 season.
While it may seem like a dream come true for the Badgers, they are a group that isn’t going to let up. With 11 seniors, ten of whom have dressed for the majority of games up to this point, the Badgers are eager to continue their winning ways this weekend when they host McGill.
While their success throughout the postseason may be surprising to others, head coach Marty Williamson says that the way his team has played since January doesn’t surprise him.
“We became a different team and we became tough to play against, but I wasn’t scared of anybody, we were playing really good hockey,” said Williamson. “Early in the year I didn’t think we competed, we weren’t on the same level of other teams, that’s a credit to those guys, you can take them to the water but you can’t always make them drink. Our guys bought in, and it’s fantastic.”
Brock took game one of their series against York in the OUA West finals by a score of 6-2, beating York goaltender Mack Shields four times in the first frame. Last Friday when the series came to St. Catharines, Brock led 3-1 in the second period, only for York to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner to take game two 4-3 and send the series to game three.
York jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period in the final game of the series — including their first goal which was only 45 seconds into the contest. The Badgers managed to cut York’s lead in half before the end of the first, and carried their momentum into the second where they found the equalizer and the go-ahead goal — the eventual game winner.
Clint Windsor, despite allowing two shaky goals in the first period, was stellar following York’s first period goals. Windsor turned away 51 shots in 60 minutes, and ranks first in the OUA in saves and wins driving the playoffs.
“To recover from a start like that, to let in two goals that Clint doesn’t normally let in, and then to just shut the door is an absolute testament to his character and his strength. He gave us a good feeling, we got one and then he just kept making saves,” said Williamson of his senior goaltender’s performance in game three.
“It wasn’t an ideal start for me, but we’ve worked hard for so long, we weren’t giving up like that, I believe in this group. It’s a job well done tonight and I’m proud of these guys,” said Windsor.
Cosimo Fontana — a freshman, whose first game with the Badgers was on January 5 — is tied for the OUA lead in goals during the 2018 playoffs with six, and scored the second goal for Brock on Saturday. Fontana recorded eight goals and one assist in his 12 regular season games with the Badgers.
“I didn’t know much about him when he came in, we saw him practice and I liked what I saw, but we really didn’t know what we had,” said Williamson of Fontana. “But you look at our numbers this year, we were the best defensive team in the conference, but we didn’t score, and that’s what he brings to us, he’s another weapon, he’s got speed, he’s got finish. We wouldn’t have been able to [get this far] without him.”
While the Badgers’ underclassmen such as Fontana (six goals, five assists) and first year forward Ayden MacDonald (three goals, five assists) have made an impact on the scoreboard these playoffs, Brock has had outpouring contributions offensively from their graduating seniors as well. Graduating defensemen Evan Morden and Patrick Volpe have combined for three assists in seven games, and the graduating forwards have combined for 11 goals and 16 assists. When asked what it meant for this group of seniors to get to the Queen’s Cup in their final year, Williamson said it was “fantastic”.
“I’m happy for them because a lot of them haven’t won a playoff round,” Williamson said. “To go through an experience like this in your final year, it’ll stick with you, you won’t forget this kind of stuff,. They were tired tonight, we just didn’t have a lot of gas in our tank and to be able to survive it, it’s something.”
Third-year defensemen Jeff Corbett struggled to find words following the Badgers win on Saturday night, but echoed Williamson.
“I’m still excited, and overwhelmed a bit. We really haven’t pushed far in the playoffs the past few years,” said Corbett. “From the goalie out we played well. [It’s] pure excitement right now, we’ve put in the work and the other guys are excited, we knew with all the graduating players this was our year.”
While earning a spot at the national tournament is a huge accomplishment, Corbett said that the ultimate goal is to win the Queen’s Cup, and worry about performing well at nationals after that.
The OUA West division champion hosts the Queen’s Cup this year, which means this Saturday the Badgers will host the McGill Redmen in a one-game winner take all championship. The Badgers will look to continue their storied run these playoffs, and send off their 11 seniors with a league championship, as well as a national championship. Puck drop on Saturday is scheduled for 7:15 p.m at the Seymour-Hannah Centre.