After a 2018 season that saw the Badgers miss the playoffs for the second straight year, the team is looking to turn a program that has been at the bottom of the OUA for nearly a decade into one that can compete. Not an easy task, considering that since 2010 the Badgers record has compiled into a lousy 37-109-22, including a brutal three year stretch from 2013-2015 where they won just four games combined (and lost 35).
The Badgers did make a brief playoff appearance in 2017 — albeit with a losing record of 6-9-2 — only to get bounced in the first round. While the quest back to relevancy has been a long one, head coach Lucio Ianiero, a former OUA All-Star who had a decade-long professional career, has slowly been building this program back up since taking over as head coach in the fall of 2016. The Badgers have finished the past two seasons with records of 6-9-2 and 6-8-2, and finished one game back of the playoffs this past season.
One of the biggest areas where the Badgers struggled last year was on the offensive end, where they finished the year scoring an average of 1.44 goals per game (if you remove their 6-0 victory over the 0-15-1 Algoma Thunderbirds, that number drops to just 1.13). The Badgers scored three goals just one other time last season and were shut out five times.
“We would like to continue to build on our style of play utilizing the team philosophy,” said Ianiero. “That being said, we are looking to build on our offensive game where we create more scoring opportunities.”
One of the lone offensive bright spots last season was the play of forward Jared Agyemang. The pair of Agyemang and midfielder Arsen Platis combined for 11 of the Badgers’ 23 goals last year. But with Platis graduating this past spring, Agyemang will most likely have to carry a bigger scoring load this year. Ianiero will look to his upperclassmen to set the tone for the younger players.
“We are expecting that our juniors and seniors lead on and off the field. Players like Agyemang, Josh Paterson, Andrew Baldin, Alejandro Puentes and Tyler Stranges to name a few.”
Platis was one of six players to graduate this spring, so it is safe to say that the Badgers will have a lot of new faces this year.
“We have several recruits and walk-ons that made the squad this year,” said Ianiero. “Having new players always affects the team performance as they take a while to learn the philosophy and style of play.”
The Badgers split a pair of exhibition games last week, winning 3-0 against Niagara College, and losing 2-1 to Sheridan. Their first regular season game took place this past Saturday, with the Badgers and the Waterloo Warriors drawing at two apiece. Marc Iantomasi and Jared Agyemang scored their respective firsts of the season. The Badgers picked up their first win of the year on Sunday, beating Windsor 2-1, with Agyemang scoring his second, and Carlos Williams scoring his first.
The Badgers are in Guelph this Friday night, before returning home to face the McMaster Marauders on Sep. 14 at Alumni Field.