The York Lions played an incredibly physical game of hockey that led to the Badgers taking their first regulation loss of the season.
It was a goaltending battle for much of the first period. The Badgers and Lions traded shots on goal. Lauren Dubie of the Lions faced 10 shots from the Badgers and Brock’s starter, Jensen Murphy, faced nine.
There were three times in the second period where the Badgers had the advantage of an extra skater, but the Lions penalty kill unit threw their bodies in the line of fire and kept the Badgers off the scoreboard.
The first Lions goal came just after the halfway point of the period, just after they’d celebrated a goal that was disallowed. There was traffic in front of the net, the Lions took a shot high and Murphy reached up to make the save. Someone knocked the net out of position and the play was blown dead. The Lions thought they’d scored but there was no goal on the play. The Lions protested from the bench but had the final say in the matter when, on the very next shift, they lured Murphy out of position, leaving her unable to block a rebound.
Sometimes it’s the teams themselves that set the tone for the game and sometimes officiating plays a role. York plays a style of hockey that capitalizes on the officials inability to call every infraction that the Lions commit. Officials can’t slow down the pace of a game with constant penalties, so eventually, they stop calling slashes and hooks. It becomes easier to get away with holding and interference and there’s no doubt that the Lions took advantage. It’s this aggressive style of play that has earned them the No. 9 ranking in the country.
The Badgers were on a power play, minutes after the Lions goal. York would score their second goal of the game with their fifth skater sitting in the penalty box.
“Our high person who had the puck got hooked down and then they took the puck down to the other end on a two on one so what the hell are you going to do there?” said head coach Margot Page.
The Badgers prepared to play a physical game against the Lions but there was only so much the coaching staff could tell them. They had to experience it for themselves.
“You can only prepare them so much until they get into the battle and see how they respond,” said Page.
For the most part, the Badgers responded well. They limited the Lions’ shot attempts and had some dangerous opportunities of their own. The teams were even in shot attempts at the end of the game, with both teams recording 25.
“I think they responded really well at the start and I think they went away from our game plan and then, in the back half of the third we started to play more physical, more intense, I think when they realized what was being called and what wasn’t being called they kind of went okay and they adjusted well and played well,” said Page.
The Badgers had a more complete lineup in this game. Niamh Haughey returned to the team after spending the first few weeks of the hockey season wrapping up her rugby season. Haughey is the kind of player the Badgers need when they’re facing physical teams.
“She’s just a strong physical presence who has a great athletic sense and just goes hard when you ask her to,” said Page.
Size is something that can be easily overcome in hockey, particularly the women’s game. Small, powerful forwards can find success not in spite of their size, but often because of it. It would, however, be remiss to not acknowledge the physical difference in the teams. The Lions biggest player on the ice has a listed height of 6’3”.
The Badgers smallest player is over a foot shorter at 5’0”, putting Brock at a serious disadvantage in terms of size. Emma Irwin’s listed height of 5’11” would make her the Badgers biggest player on the ice.
Page said she was fine with the Badgers results but looking for them to learn from this experience.
“We do have to play a little bit better when there’s a physical team that we’re playing and York is fast, they’re big, they’re strong, they’re physical, they’re intense and it’s great to play against them because it’s just going to make us better.”
The Badgers play York one more time in the regular season, on January 25, it will be worth watching to see if the Badgers truly took this game to heart and made the necessary adjustments.
“I think in general we have to be ready to have a physical fight when we play York and we know that,” Page said.
The Badgers will play the 4-1 Laurentian Voyageurs on November 8 in a special school day game at 12:00 p.m. at the Seymour-Hannah Centre