Badgers sweep Seniors weekend to get back into the playoff picture

Photo credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo credit: Mackenzie Gerry

The Brock Badgers women’s hockey team put themselves one step closer to a playoff spot after a six point week with regulation victories coming over Laurier and Waterloo.

The Badgers played Laurier on Thursday night where they won 3-1 and outshot the visiting Golden Hawks 37-22. Before the puck dropped, however, the Badgers honoured their graduating seniors: forwards Annie Berg, Hunter Accursi and Amanda Ieradi, goaltenders Julia Pettella and Jensen Murphy, as well as student athletic trainers Brittany Neilson and Emily Willms.

Once the Badgers had honoured their seniors, it was a freshman, Mishayla Christensen, who opened up the scoring on the power play. The Golden Hawks answered back with a power play goal of their own at the tail end of the first.

Emma Irwin scored what would ultimately be the game winner. Irwin is also a first-year student, a centre who has benefited from playing alongside experienced veterans like Berg, Accursi and Ieradi.

“We’ve got a really good crew but they’ve also been led very well by these seniors,” said head coach Margot Page.

Irwin, alongside Christensen, Mikayla Flanagan and Sarah Brooks, is part of a group of players who started the season as strong but inexperienced players and finished it as integral parts of the Badgers’ forward depth. The Badgers announced a recruit for next season at the game against Laurier. The addition of Jessica Martens, an 18-year-old forward from Cochrane, Alberta, guarantees that this forward depth will continue.

The future is bright for the Badgers but Amanda Ieradi didn’t want anyone to forget about the present when she scored one last regular season goal on home ice to round out the third period.

The Badgers happily took the three points from the regulation win and turned their focus to Waterloo who would be playing their last game of the season against the Badgers.

“Their barn is tough to play in. They play very well in their barn. They have a really really good team,” said Page. “We have to be ready for them.”

As it turns out, the Badgers were prepared, learning from earlier mistakes. They were tight defensively, allowing Murphy to record a shutout in the 1-0 victory. Niamh Haughey scored the Badgers only goal halfway through the second.

For fifth year players, Ieradi and Murphy, their time with the Badgers is finished. They played their final regular season home game on Thursday and will play their final two away games this week.

In five years, Murphy’s first year save percentage was a .932 and she’s only improved from there. She’s been required to stand tall behind defensively irresponsible teams to consistently make more saves than any goalie in the OUA, last year making 807 saves over 23 games. Having Murphy in net gave the Badgers a chance even in years past when the team standing in front of her left much to be desired.

Ieradi, along with Murphy was part of the key group of players who were present when Margot Page took over as head coach of the women’s hockey program in 2015-16.

When Annie Berg joined the team the next season it was big news. She could have easily played at an NCAA school but instead chose to play for the Badgers — it helped that she’d grown up playing hockey at the very rink where the Badgers played their home games, but  the Badgers had built a team that she could see herself playing for. Berg was given graduating honours by Bob Davis who worked for 30 years with the Brock University Athletics Department and became the first president of the OUA.

Julia Pettella saw minimal ice time with the Badgers, losing a year to injuries. It’s hard to be a backup goalie when the starter is one of the best in the league, despite that, Pettella recoded a win in her first game back from injury this season.

Hunter Accursi also joined the team in 2016 and was met at centre ice by her parents and a member of the Junior Badgers. Her sister, Taylor Accursi, who plays for the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL, looked on from the stands as it was announced that Hunter would be pursuing a master’s degree after completing her degree in nursing.

“They were part of the change of this program to become a very good hockey program and a very dedicated hockey program and a committed program. I think that’s the takeaway, the legacy that they left and they should be very proud of that,” said Page.

The postseason picture is still unclear for the Badgers, but with two games remaining, they have the potential to finish in the top three. If the York Lions win their final game in regulation against Laurier, they will finish in second place with 47 points. If the Badgers take a regulation win in one of their games against Laurentian or Nipissing and an overtime loss or better in the other, they will end up with 45 points which would put them in third place if York does not lose in regulation and in second place if they do.

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