When the Badgers took to the ice in their final exhibition game, one player was noticeably missing.
Kevin Hancock was one of the Badgers’ star recruits this offseason, but just five days before the Badgers were set to play their final preseason game, it was announced that he’d signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners.
“You can’t replace him,” said Badgers head coach Marty Williamson. “You lose a 52 goal scorer as your centre, it’s hard.”
Despite Hancock’s absence, the Badgers managed to pull out a 2-1 win over the Laurier Golden Hawks. There’s no doubt that having Hancock for the rest of the season would’ve benefited the Badgers, but they proved that they were a strong team before Hancock arrived and they’ll be a strong team after he’s gone.
“We’re making it up by committee. We knew we had a good team, he allowed us to be great and now we have to be great without him,” said Williamson.
The game against Laurier was a chance for the Badgers to prove it. The Badgers outshot the Golden Hawks 20-5 in the first period, but it was Laurier who struck first as the minutes wound down. Jared Marino put up the first goal for the Badgers halfway through the second period.
There was no shortage of opportunities to score the game winning goal, but missed passes and poor communication prevented the Badgers from capitalising on them.
“We get a little careless at times and we didn’t quite play 60 minutes but it was a pretty solid effort. I’m not too concerned; it’s a good group in there. We’ll watch some video, show the mistakes. The odd-man rush, a couple breakaways that we just gotta clean up a little bit,” said Williamson.
The game winning goal came courtesy of senior defender, Ethan Spaxman. It was a well placed shot from the point that came just five minutes before the end of the period.
The final shot totals were 43 for Brock and 16 for Laurier. It wasn’t the quantity of shots that held the Badgers back in this game, but more so the quality of those shots.
“We’re working hard. We just got to find a way to generate more pucks at the net and find a way to get those rebounds,” said Williamson.
Williamson would like to see the team score more in the future. Dominant offense is what took them to the OUA semifinals last season — a pattern he’d like to see continue.
“We have to continue to grow as a team. We’re playing hard —which I’m pretty proud of the guys for — and solid defensively. We just grow our offensive game a little bit and specialty teams to make sure that we can get those three or four goals every night,” said Williamson.
The team has plenty of time to adjust and fall into a rhythm that works for them. Williamson wants the team to peak at the end of January, which gives them a little under four months to find their footing.
“I think we’re getting close. There’s a real good feel amongst them now, we know this is our team going forward,” said Williamson.
With professional training camps and tryouts having concluded, it’s unlikely that the Badgers will have to face another devastating blow like the one caused by Hancock’s departure.
“We feel pretty solid about our team, it’s a tight group. I’m pretty confident with the chemistry. It’s just about trying to continue to play with the guys that your playing with and growing the on-ice chemistry a little bit. That takes time,” said Williamson.
The Badgers regular season opens with a home game against Windsor.
“We know they can score and they’ve got some good offense, they had a big recruiting year. It’s always tough. There’s such parity in the league that there really isn’t a lot of difference from whoever comes in here if you’re not on your game,” said Williamson.
The Badgers play Windsor at the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment complex on Friday October 4, then they’re on the road for two NCAA exhibition games against RPI and Quinnipiac.