Four exhibition games over the course of six weeks are all that stand in between the Badgers and the beginning of the regular season.
They played their first two exhibition games against a pair of Quebec teams, the Concordia Stingers and the Montreal Carabins. Both games ended in identical 3-2 Badger losses.
Official score aside, the games provided important insight into the new Badgers team. The roster is made largely of first and second year players, who head coach Margot Page anticipates getting better over the course of the season.
“We have some really, really neat first year players, you saw some of them today get some points and get on the board and yesterday they got on the board and we’re really excited about them,” said Page.
First year forward Mishayla Christensen scored a second period goal against Concordia, assisted by fourth year forward Annie Berg. Third year defender Paige Cohoon fed the puck to first year, Hannah Ryan for the first Badgers goal in the game against the Carabins. Mikayala Flanagan recorded an assist on the Badgers second goal. First year defenders Lauren Diks and Avery Vickers were strong presences on the ice in both games.
Page has high expectations for the new players.
“We have to be really encouraged that they’re going to get better because our leaders, our veterans are going to help them get better and we’re seeing that,” said Page.
Returning veterans include Berg, who led the team in scoring last year, and Amanda Ieradi who was not far behind. Standout goaltender Jensen Murphy has also returned for a fifth year with the team.
“We expect by Christmas time they’re going to be more on point and we expect our senior players to help lead the way.”
After the graduation of Brenna Murphy, the Badgers have not yet named for a captain for the upcoming season.
“We have no letters on anybody right now and we’re waiting for our captains to emerge and right now we’re just watching. I think it’s pretty evident, some leaders out there on and off the ice but we need some time to gel and see what happens.”
The next four exhibition games will be on the road, including two games against NCAA Division I teams at Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state this weekend. The Badgers will be playing another exhibition game against the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL the following weekend. They will be back in Ontario for a final exhibition against the Laurier Golden Hawks on October 10.
Page hopes to discover more about her team over the rest of the exhibition schedule, finding the best line combinations and defensive pairings to use in the regular season.
“Every game that we play we want to get our feet wet — we want to get better and we want to make adjustments,” said Page.
The Badgers will see a familiar face during their match up against the Beauts, as former Badger Kim Brown signed with Buffalo over the summer.
“I think we’re a lot more physical, I think we move the puck a lot better, we’re getting more shots on net which is great,” said Page.
The difference maker? Page thinks it might come down to attitude. The Badgers were outplayed in their first game of the weekend against Concordia, but the biggest difference between the teams seemed to be their enthusiasm level. The Stingers were much more excited coming off the bench than the Badgers. After the second game against the Carabins, Page noticed a difference (despite the loss).
“It was a much different and better attitude, they’re very supportive of each other and excited when someone was blocking a shot or taking the puck away from somebody and doing those little things right so that was really something that we were really excited about,” said Page. “It’s really improving upon the foundations that we lay for them and the just developing the detail within that so that we’re hopefully ready when we take off when the OUA season begins.”
The regular season will start on the road for the Badgers, with a game against Windsor on Oct. 18. The teams met twice last season, each coming away with one win.
“We’ve got six weeks to get ourselves really good so let’s work hard at doing that.”
The Badgers’ home opener will be on Oct. 25 against the Queen’s Gaels, who have won every game they’ve played against Brock since 2015.