Women’s hockey reaping the rewards of early season patience

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While most students were enjoying the last few days of the Holiday break, the women’s hockey team was hard at work. They toppled the York Lions 6-3 at home in their second, and final meeting of the regular season.

The Badgers hadn’t played a game together since December 1, but they had none of the grogginess that athletes run the risk of falling into after a long break. They were quick and, as always, incredibly physical. They played tough, spending 10 minutes in the penalty box over the course of the game, serving five minors.

This game marked the start of the second half of the regular season. The Badgers are proving to be a force to be reckoned with, and they might just grow into a team that surprises the league. The Badgers have a plethora of existing and developing talent that could potentially give any team trouble come playoff season.

They have a great, offensive group of forwards. Katreena Whiteye, Niamh Haughy, Morgan Dezell, and Annie Berg all put up points in the first game back. Haughey opened scoring in the first and contributed on two goals in the third. Ieradi, who is a fixture on special teams, scored the only goal of the second period, taking advantage of a Lions error, which caused Ieradi to be able to score her first shorthanded goal of the season, on a breakaway. Ieradi also assisted on both of Berg’s goals. Whiteye scored twice, both goals came in the third, and both goals came on the same shift, with Whiteye scoring twice in less than 20 seconds.

Annie Berg is without a doubt, the standout forward on the team, and indeed, one of the strongest players in the OUA. Her two goals in this game put her fourth amongst OUA point scorers. Berg has seven goals and six assists in the past 13 games, putting her on pace to be a point per game player.

The team also has strong defensive talent, particularly in rookie defenseman, Makayla Porter, who scored her first as an OUA athlete just before the holiday break. Porter, who assisted on the first of Whiteye’s goals, leads Badgers’ defenders in points. Captain, Brenna Murphy has three assists of her own, but has yet to connect for a goal.

Brenna Murphy is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle for the Badgers. Good leadership is the key to a successful young team. The Badgers have a fair amount of players returning from previous seasons but a good chunk of their team are playing their first season of University hockey.  She has been playing in a leadership capacity since her second year when she was first asked to become and assistant captain. She accepted the role of captain in her third year, and has been leading the team ever since. Murphy is defensively responsible and takes her captaincy seriously.

The final piece of the puzzle for the Badgers is veteran goaltender, Jensen Murphy. Murphy is one of the best goaltenders in the OUA today, she plays with a degree of finesse that allows the young Badgers to take risks, and make the occasional mistake while still keeping pucks out of the net. Murphy has made over 400 saves this season, averaging over 30 saves per game. When she starts, the Badgers are 6-4. Jensen Murphy boasts a .945 save percentage as she enters the second half of what is to be her final season with the team.

Emma Balazsi will also be worth paying attention to going forward. She’s started only once for the Badgers, but in that game she had a .929 save percentage. Balazsi is a first year, and the team’s backup goaltender. With Jensen Murphy in her last year at Brock, Balazsi could become an important piece moving forward.

In the second half of the season, the Badgers will likely continue to rely on phenomenal goaltending, and strong special teams. They show no signs of easing up on the aggression, so it’s fair to assume they’ll be falling back on their penalty kill a fair amount. They’ve also been quite competent when it comes to drawing penalties, giving their power play plenty of room to shine.

Coach Margot Page told her team to stay patient at the beginning of the year. With the rookies coming into their own, and the veterans getting into their rhythm, it’s time to ask, has the patience paid off? Is it finally time for the Badgers to reap the rewards of their dedication.

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