Despite one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Brock men’s hockey team left the playoffs disappointed — knocked out in the quarterfinals by Western — with no shot at an OUA or national title.
On the upside, at the end of last season, the Badgers were tasked with replacing a majority of their roster who were graduating. This year is much different. While the Badgers have six graduating players, they have plenty returning — including their top five point getters from this year (Ryan Burton, Ayden MacDonald, Adam Berg, Connor Brown, Skylar Pacheco). Though, while they may not be losing players who put up many goals or assists, they are losing some stellar defensemen in Jake Ringuette and Jeff Corbett. The recruiting trail couldn’t be more important for the Badgers, who expect to be in the top of the standings next year.
“We have our list of guys and we’ve made contact, but a lot of them will depend on NHL deals, and the OHL guys won’t make up their mind until May or June,” said head coach Marty Williamson. “We’re on top of six or seven guys who we think are pretty important to us, and we’ve got a second list of guys that we’ve made contact with, but we’ll iron that out in the next couple of months.”
Brody Silk, one of the graduating forwards, was captain of the 2018-19 Badgers. Ringuette and Corbett served as alternate captains this year as well. For Williamson, he’s not worried about having someone to fill those roles.
“To me that’s the least of my worries going forward. I think there’s lots of guys, there’s guys we’ve had there for a couple years like [Connor] Brown and [Justin] Brack, Connor Walters, [Dexter] Weber and [Skylar] Pacheco, this team is full of [leaders], there’s no shortage of options that way. It was the same kind of going into this year, I’ll just let that play out, we’re going to have guys come in who have been captains on teams, just like we’ve got guys now who have all done that kind of job. There’s a big group of guys in there and they all do the right things and say the right things.”
The OUA West division has seen similar teams at the top of the standings the past few years. Guelph won the division last year, and this year finished fifth — 17 points shy of their total from the year before. Ryerson, who won the division, finished third a year ago. Brock finished in fifth for two straight years, while this year they finished second. Though, with other recruits that have already been announced by other OUA teams, it’s safe to assume things will be just as competitive next year — if not more.
“Ryerson will still be up there, they’ll lose a couple of pieces but that’s like everybody, Guelph’s losing a few [players], but we all do a pretty good job of restocking. I anticipate the league will be even closer next year. I know us and Ryerson separated ourselves a little bit [this year]. Guelph and Western had slow starts, but I really think we’re going to find it even closer next year and you’re going to have to be that team that is really consistent and pick up those extra points if you’re going to find yourselves in the top of the standings,” said Williamson.
It will be important for the Badgers to add new players who will be able to contribute right away and compete against the Ryerson’s and Western’s of the league. However, the work of their current players during the summer, and their mindset coming into next year, are what Williamson will look for when determining who will fill the bigger roles for the team.
“Obviously conditioning is important, I think getting off to a good start is very important next year,” said Williamson. “You want this group to come in with a real purpose. I think losing and being disappointed like we were this year — even though we had a great season — we were disappointed in the playoffs. My message in my exit meetings is to be very hungry, nothing’s taken for granted as far as jobs, you have to work for it and earn it in August and September if you want to be the guys I go with in October. So, that’s the message to them, we’re going to bring in some good hockey players to add to this group, and we expect to have ourselves right at the top of the standings again next year.”