It seems that no matter what the Badgers’ skaters do, goaltender Jensen Murphy will always be their standout player. In their most recent game against the Ryerson Rams, Murphy faced 53 shots, and came up with 52 stops in regulation.
The Badgers spent most of the first period in their own end, fishing out pucks and relying on Murphy to bail them out when they were unsuccessful. The team has often struggled to flow in the first period, especially generating a strong offence. Scoring chances were few and far between and the puck spent most of the first third being juggled between teams. Ryerson took a penalty less than 30 seconds into the game but the Badgers power play unit was unable to connect for a goal. Brock took their own penalty late in the first after defender, Paige Cohoon, was sent to the box for delay of game. They denied the Rams a power play goal with a penalty kill unit that has been fairly reliable all year.
Both teams went into the second period without a goal. However, forward Amanda Ieradi was leading the Badgers attack. At one point she exploded up the ice with a burst of speed, as she took her shot, a combination of her own momentum and the presence of a Ryerson skater sent her into the boards. This would be the first of a few times Ieradi would be thrown into the boards.
“She’s very strong physically so I’m not worried when she gets crunched so much, they tried to slow her down a bit with the physical play,” said head coach Margot Page.
The Badgers would find themselves stuck in their own end once again, with Murphy pulling out all the stops to prevent the Rams from opening up scoring.
Rookie Niamh Haughey was able to eventually intercept a pass and skate past the Ryerson skaters. She landed a wrist shot just above the goaltender’s left shoulder to open up the scoring.
Haughey is one of the teams many rookies, playing her first season of university hockey.
“I think they’re starting to play more confidently and really making some good decisions,” said Page. “They’re still a little up and down but I think they’re a little more up than down now.”
Haughey scored her first goal in the OUA before the holiday break, along with several other first-year players. These are the kind of “ups” that Page has been patiently waiting for these players to find.
To conclude the second period, there was a scuffle at the blue line with players from both teams landing on top of one another. Both teams believed they deserved a penalty and a small shoving match ensued.
“That was the one where I thought there were going be penalties to start the next period but there wasn’t, [the official] was letting a lot go and that’s okay” said Page. “I’d rather play a good physical game instead of being in the box all the time and the games being slowed down.”
Both teams went into the third at even strength. The Badgers fell back into the habit of relying on Murphy’s league-leading saving ability. Trouble for the Badgers came when Ieradi was sent to the box for head contact. The Badgers were facing a four-minute penalty kill as Ieradi served two consecutive minors. Murphy bailed the team out as she faced shot after shot. The Badgers would soon find themselves further in trouble. With just over a minute left in Ieradi’s penalty, Maggie Spratt-Mallick took a penalty for cross-checking sending her to the box for two minutes.
Murphy faced 22 shots in the third period, while the Badgers put up just four. Murphy was doing everything she could to keep the puck out of the net, but having to face the majority of 22 shots on a five-on-three disadvantage would make even the best of goalies baulk. With under 30 seconds in Ieradi’s double-minor, the Rams tied it up.
The Badgers killed the rest of Spratt-Mallick’s penalty to keep the game tied. The team struggled in three on three overtime, much to the confusion of their head coach.
“I don’t know where our heads were at, we played a pretty good game in getting better defensively and then that happened we should have been doing better because we were practicing it a lot.”
The Badgers ultimately took the game in a shootout thanks to a goal from Spratt-Mallick.
While the team still maintains their playoff hopes, Page made it clear that isn’t her priority at the moment.
“I’m not even looking at playoffs, they’re so far off. I think if we play well again and we keep getting points then we might make playoffs and if we make playoffs it’s a whole different ball game.”
Brock currently holds the final playoff spot, with a six point edge on UOIT, who’s currently ninth. With six games remaining, the Badgers will host Toronto and Nipissing this weekend.