Badgers swept out of the playoffs by first seeded Guelph Gryphons

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The Brock Badgers women’s hockey team needed a win against Guelph and they needed it badly. They were going into the second game of a three game series and Guelph had already blanked Brock 5-0 earlier in the week to put the Badgers on the brink of elimination.

The Badgers had some rookies who wanted to make an impression in their first playoff run. However, there are enough veterans on the roster that remember Guelph as the team that eliminated them from the first round a year ago. The Badgers needed to take the series to three, but ultimately, the Gryphons were able to shut them out and win game two 1-0, sending Guelph into the second round.

The game was low scoring, but don’t let that be misleading — it was a battle to the final seconds. The first, and ultimately, game winning goal was scored at the tail end of the first by Guelph forward Claire Merrick, whose three playoff goals and single assist put her at the top of the OUA in playoff scoring.

The Badgers took a penalty shortly after the first goal led them to start the second on the penalty kill. Brock has generally played an aggressive and fast second period all season, and this game was no exception. The Badgers were able to kill off all five of the penalties they took in this game, and it has often been their strong penalty killing ability that allows them to play more physical.

The Badgers were able to draw penalties as well, but it seemed that as soon as Brock’s power play unit stepped on the ice, the officials were blowing the whistle to call a penalty against them. This led to Brock spending over three minutes playing four-on-four in the second period.

Both teams were applying pressure to the other, but the Badgers in particular spent a lot of time hemmed in their own zone by the physically dominant Gryphons.

“I think always it will be our defensive zone coverage, once we get the puck we have trouble breaking out,” said head coach Margot Page.

The second period would ultimately end without a goal.

For Brock, the challenge ahead of them was a little more daunting. Guelph’s defence had been excellent through the first two periods and they showed no signs of slowing down. Gryphons goalie Valerie Lamenta would prove to be impossible to beat even on multiple scoring chances for the Badgers.

Annie Berg, Amanda Ieradi and Cassidy Maplethorpe, all had opportunities that could have easily been goals in a regular season game against a lesser opponent, but this was the playoffs, and this was Guelph. Guelph who claimed the first seed in the playoffs, Guelph who won back-to-back championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17, and this was the same Guelph who dashed the Badgers playoff hopes last season in the second game of round one.

“Honestly, Guelph is a great team, they’re number one for a reason they weren’t even close and we played them to 1-0. I’ll take that,” said Page, “Obviously a win is better, we had our opportunity to tie it up but what can you do.”

She regards this season as a success, citing the development of their first year players.

“Our leadership in our room and the expectations the team put on them, and the way they accepted it and challenged themselves, you can see how good we got from start to finish and I’m really proud of them.”

It was bittersweet as the Badgers left the ice, it would be the end of an era, in a sense. Brenna Murphy has been a leader on the team since her second year when she became an alternate captain, and then furthermore in her third year when she became the captain of the team. Over her four seasons as a captain, she has helped usher in a new era of Badgers women’s hockey.

The Badgers have been known for their standout goaltending and that’s all thanks to Jensen Murphy, who will be graduating alongside Brenna. She ended the season with a .944 save percentage, and led all OUA goalies in saves with 807. Also graduating this year will be defender Marissa Graham, as well as three forwards who make up a key component of the team’s offensive core. Ieradi, Maggie Spratt-Mallick and Kim Brown all played their last game as Badgers on Friday.

The team is already looking to the future.

“We’ve already got three forwards, two defencemen, and a goalie coming in, signed sealed and delivered,” said Page.

Next season will mark the start of a new era of Badgers hockey, one with fresh faces and new leadership. Annie Berg has been a standout forward since the day she arrived at Brock, she currently wears an A on her jersey, but come next season, it’s not unreasonable to say she might swap it out for the C.

Whatever happens, Page believes the team has a strong future ahead of them.

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