The Badgers inexperience might finally be catching up to them. They’re a young team, coming off of a second straight first round playoff exit courtesy of the Guelph Gryphons. Growing pains were expected as the first years learned to navigate the league, and yet, they started the season with a win, they didn’t lose in regulation for the next three games, taking two of them to a shootout, and winning the third 4-3.
Then they were shutout 2-0 against York and then again the next weekend against Laurentian. Head coach Margot Page was getting frustrated.
“We had so many opportunities and we just couldn’t put it in. We had empty nets just off to the side and all someone had to do was just push it through and it didn’t happen,” she said.
They made the mistakes that a young team is expected to make — missed passes, bad shots, and blown defensive assignments. What makes it so frustrating is that the Badgers have already showed what they’re capable of in the first four games.
The game against Laurentian was meant to be a show. The Badgers had invited local schools to watch the team play. The rink was louder than it had been in recent memory, the students were buzzing.
“I love the energy, it’s nice to have,” said Page after the game. “If that can spur the interest of a parent or another kid that wants to play hockey because they just saw this, that’s awesome and I’m very grateful to the schools to bring them up and have them here because that’s a lot of fun to have.”
Laurentian scored less than two minutes into the game after hemming the Badgers in their own end, Karissa Hoskin picked up a rebound to earn would turn out to be, the game winning goal.
Jensen Murphy faced just two shots in the first period, as the Badgers dominated the shot count for the rest of the game, they outshot the Voyageurs 40-21. Laurentian’s goaltender Shanna Dolighan had a .954 save percentage going into the game — her shutout was well earned. Page knew that she’d be tough to crack.
“She’s been like that in the past but she’s just started off being really strong right now. So tough to play against but that’s how we are, right, with [Murphy] in the net. Our goalies are great so we have to start finding a way to score,” she said.
The Badgers were set to play Nipissing in their next game and Page made it clear that the absolute last thing she wanted was another shutout.
“We got goose eggs both games now back to back so we’ve got to find out what we can do to score,” she said.
The Badgers couldn’t afford to make the same mistakes again.
“They were very strong on our sticks and we didn’t respond well, we were getting pucks taken off just because they battled. We weren’t really strong on our sticks and Laurentian took advantage of that so I have to give them credit for that,” said Page.
History was dangerously close to repeating itself as the Badgers took the ice for their Saturday night game against Nipissing. The Lakers scored in the first and quickly put two more in the back of the Badgers’ net. Page called a timeout.
“Without swearing, I told them they had to do a lot better. It was like ‘this isn’t us, what are we doing?’ we’re reaching too much, we’re scrambling too much.”
The team took it personally. Just minutes later, Amanda Ieradi drew a tripping penalty, and on the ensuing power play scored the Badgers first goal in three games.
“When you can have your fifth year players firing on all cylinders it makes all the difference in the world, and she’s got amazing skill and amazing speed and if she can utilize that against the other teams and we can get her going again it’s awesome,” said Page.
Emma Irwin added another goal to the scoreboard, but Nipissing came back with one of their own to reclaim the lead. An empty netter in the third sealed the deal.
It was a loss, but the Badgers were starting to look like themselves again.
“When you talk about the goals from a team perspective, yeah it’s disappointing that we lost obviously but we always look at the bigger picture and say ‘we scored two goals today against a very good team’ and we’re pretty happy with that. But now we have to kind of keep going and try and turn it around next weekend and get the wins again,” said Page.
The Badgers will play two games on the road this weekend against Ontario Tech and Queen’s.