Badgers set bar high
The Brock Badgers men’s hockey team is coming off one of its best seasons in school history and see no reason why it cannot duplicate that success this time around.
The Badgers recorded 19 wins (19-5-4-0) in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) action and head coach Marty Williamson is setting the bar high once again.
“We’re confident. We set a school record for wins last year and we’re not a lot different. We’re very similar,” Williamson said.
The Badgers kick off the 2019/20 OUA regular season when they host the Windsor Lancers Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the Seymour-Hannah Sports Complex.
Williamson, who is entering this third season behind the bench at Brock, led the Badgers to a birth in the U Sport nationals in his first year and would love to duplicate that once again. Western ended Brock’s playoff run in the second round last season.
“I think we have to look at it as we want to go to nationals,” Williamson said. “That means we need to win our side (West) and get into the East and then get to nationals.
“We need to play our game and be consistent. I thought we would get there last year and then the injuries hit us. All the good luck things need to be on your side too.”
Williamson is eager to see how this year’s version of the Badgers stacks up against the competition now that the games count.
“It’s a great time of the year. Everyone is undefeated right now. Our guys have put it the time this month and we’re ready to start playing games. We have Windsor in here and we know that’s going to be a great test.
“It’s time to see where our game sets up with everybody.”
Williamson feels this season’s team will be similar to last year, particularly up front where goals once again figure to be at a premium.
“I think it’s going to be a low-scoring, hard-working team,” he said. “We work awfully hard and we play the game the right way.
“I think our guys take pride in that. That’s one of the things I like about this team is that we have great patience with our work ethic. We believe is we keep doing it we’ll find a way to squeak out the victory and get that goal we need.”
Williamson thought he had acquired the sniper he was looking for when former Ontario Hockey League star Kevin Hancock committed, but Hancock recently signed with Tuscon of the American Hockey League.
“Losing Hancock was a bit of a hit,” Williamson said. “That’s going to be tough to replace.
“The recruitment of Hancock was such a big piece for us because we wanted that guy who was maybe a goal-a-game kind of guy. Maybe give us a little bit of separation to make it a little easier.”
The Badgers did add former Erie Otter and St. Catharines Falcon winger Christian Girhiny, who is a top-notch, two-way player.
On the back end, former Niagara IceDogs Jonathon Schaefer and mobile Jordan Sambrook have been added. Sambrook, a 6-foot-3 right-shot defender from Markham, played four seasons in the OHL with the Erie Otters and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He scored 51 goals and 155 points in 262 regular season games, and was a plus-134. In 2016, the Detroit Red Wings drafted Sambrook in the fifth-round (137th overall) at the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo.
“I think our blueline is among the best in the league,” Williamson said.
The goaltending situation is not quite as settled.
Mario Cavaliere, a native of Mississauga in his sophomore season, will begin the year at the No. 1 backstop. Former OHL netminder Mario Culina has been added, but isn’t eligible to play until after Christmas, while local product Zack Bowman has decided to concentrate on school. For now, Jacob Hutchings, who has experience in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League but did not play last season, will act as the backup.
“We are a little in flux. There are some things we have to work out (in goal). It will be an interesting first half for us,” Williamson said.
Williamson loves the core of his team going forward, but wishes he could have built in more depth for this season.
“We’re not as deep as I wanted to be and losing Hancock is a big part of that,” he said. “As well, Ethan Price decided not to come back to school in August and those are tough holes to fill at the last minute.”
To help fill in some gaps, Williamson is resorting to moving some players around.
“We’re doing some different things. We’ve got a couple of defenceman who are going to play some forward for us and give us some depth. We want to be able to keep getting them better and better at being able to help us if we do run into problems,” he said.
Players on the team this season with local ties are: Schaefer (IceDogs), Tyler MacArthur (Falcons), Brayden Stortz (Welland Junior Canadians), Girhiny (Falcons), Frankie Pucci (Niagara Falls Canucks), Mitch Mendonca (Niagara Falls Canucks), Jared Marino (Fort Erie Meteors) and Connor Walters (Welland Junior Canadians).
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