The men’s hockey team has some adjusting to do after the winter break. It had been more than a month since the Badgers had played a game when they took the ice against the Ryerson Rams in their first game of 2020 on Thursday.
“It’s a catch 22. It’s tough for these guys to be off that long. Timing and everything, the rust, yet they’re excited to get back on the ice,” said head coach Marty Williamson.
The excitement quickly wore off as the Badgers fell behind in the first period when Steven Harland and Mathew Santos captured the lead for the Rams.
The game was dangerously close to spinning out of control when Christian Girhiny was hit from behind. The left winger went down hard, appearing to hit the glass head first and did not get up right away. Girhiny eventually got up and skated off the ice without assistance and headed straight to the dressing room.
“I was just talking to him and his neck is stiff, but we’ll see what he’s like tomorrow, whether he’s ready to go Saturday or whether he needs a week, but I don’t think it’s anything long term,” said Williamson when asked about the potential injury.
Girhiny is an explosive player who has become far more important to the Badgers lineup than may have been expected when he joined the program in April of last year. In his first season as a Badger, the 5’11” forward has put up two goals and nine assists. He did not play in the Badgers next game against Toronto.
The Badgers weren’t pleased and a second period goal from Jared Marino almost created the momentum they needed to mount a comeback. The Rams were able to play a tight defensive game, spoiling Mario Culina’s Badgers debut by sliding one last puck past him in the third. The Badgers weren’t able to capture the lead and ended the game in a disappointing 3-2 loss.
“They won’t be that excited with the game tonight but it’s a process,” said Williamson.
The Badgers ran into a red hot University of Toronto team two days later on Saturday night and recorded their worst loss of the season falling 7-0.
Brock outplayed the Varsity Blues for the majority of the first period despite trailing by one at the end. They outshot the Blues 8-7 and had more dangerous scoring chances overall. It was the second period when things really started to go downhill for the Badgers, Mario Cavaliere faced 13 shots, five of them translated to goals. Mario Culina took over netminding duties in the third. Toronto scored one last goal to win by a touchdown (or a try for those of us who prefer rugby).
The Varsity Blues are chasing a school record, set in the 1973-74 season when the team went on a wild 17 game win streak, their win over the Badgers put them that much closer with 14 wins.
The Badgers added two new players to the lineup to start the year and Williamson expects them to take time to adjust.
“They’re both proven players but they’ve both got rust, one hasn’t played in about two years and the other a year. We need to get them playing and live with the ups and downs. We know we’ve got some good players when they get the rust off. “
Mario Culina played a full 60 minutes against Ryerson, and 20 minutes against the University of Toronto. He faced 31 shots this weekend and allowed four goals. Culina spent five games with the Newfoundland Growlers in the ECHL in the 2018-19 season, but before that he played in the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires, Kitchener Rangers and Sudbury Wolves, as well as a season with Ryerson in 2017-18.
The Badgers second addition is a 6’3”, 216 pound centre, Jordan Maletta. Maletta was signed to a three-year contract as a free agent by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016. He was assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, where he scored 12 goals and 11 assists in 76 games. After sustaining an injury in 2017, he was traded to Arizona. Maletta comes to the Badgers after sitting out the full 2018-19 season. One thing Maletta won’t have to adjust to is his coach, as he played his OHL hockey under Williamson from 2012 until 2016 with the Niagara IceDogs where he spent two years as an assistant captain.
The Badgers will return home this Thursday to take on the Guelph Gryphons at 7:15 p.m. at the Seymour-Hannah Centre before hitting the road to face the Western Mustangs on Saturday.