Hockey Badgers add to lineup
Former London Knight Kevin Hancock could play a major role for the Brock Badgers this season. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
The Brock Badgers men’s hockey team appear poised to pick up where they left off last season.
The Badgers had a successful 2018/19 campaign finishing with a 22-11 record and a trip to the Ontario University Athletics semifinals were they were eliminated by Western.
The Badgers return the nucleus of that squad this season, along with a handful of new recruits.
“We have most of our team returning so we only needed four or five guys,” Badgers coach Marty Williamson said. “We think we had a really good team last year and unfortunately we had a few injuries late in the season, losing three defencemen.”
The Badgers lost Brody Silk, Brandon O’Quinn, Jake Ringuette, Jeff Corbett and goaltender Logan Thompson to graduation.
“We lost some good character players, but we think we’ve replaced them with real good character guys,” said Williamson, who has been named OUA coach of the year in both his seasons at Brock.
Confirmed newcomers include four players with strong local ties — forwards Christian Girhiny and Mitch Mendonca, defenceman Jon Schaefer and goaltender Zach Bowman.
Girhiny won an OHL championship with the Erie Otters two seasons ago and finished up last season with the St. Catharines Falcons and Oakville Blades.
“He finds way to get it done,” Williamson said of Girhiny. “People didn’t believe he could play in the OHL and there he was. He has unbelievable knack and IQ for the game. It doesn’t matter that he’s slightly undersized and not the fastest guy in the world. He has all that stacked against him except for how smart he is.”
Williamson coached Schaefer with the Niagara IceDogs.
“I’ve watched Jonathon grow his game from a forward who scored a big goal in the playoffs and then morphed into a really good defenceman,” Williamson said. “I thought he had a really good year for the IceDogs last year. When he told me he was interested in Brock, it sure put a smile on my face right away. I know what he brings.”
Bowman has five years of OHL experience under his belt and will compete for a job between the pipes while Mendonca helped the Niagara Falls Canucks to a Golden Horseshoe championship.
“These are quality guys who care about their teammates, who care about the game, and they play it the right way,” Williamson said. “You can’t get enough of those guys.”
The Badgers also added former OHL goaltender Mario Culina, a 21-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie. Culina has won a Memorial Cup, an Ontario Junior A Championship and led an underdog Kitchener Rangers club to within a goal of the OHL finals. He went 5-0 in his professional debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ ECHL team in Newfoundland.
In addition, Williamson has recruited a pair of high-end players — forward Kevin Hancock and defenceman Jordan Sambrook — who would be major difference makers. Both are going to pro camps and may or may not return.
Hancock scored 52 goals last season split between Owen Sound and London while Sambrook is a skilled rearguard who had a strong season with the Greyhounds and was a fifth-round selection of the Detroit Red Wings in 2016.
“We haven’t had a kid like Hancock as part of our organization,” Williamson said. “He’s a premier player. The same for Jordan Sambrook. It’s been a long time since we had two recruits of that calibre.
“When you get these high-end guys, you never know when a pro contract is going to come at them.”
Williamson said Hancock and Sambrook were impressed after Thompson was signed by the Washington Capitals.
“Part of the reason Hancock and Sambrook are interested is they know the program and they know me, but the fact Logan Thompson was signed out of our program last year was extremely important to them,” Williamson said. “They had scouts talk to them that Brock is a great place. It’s handy coming out of Buffalo or Toronto. We had a lot of NHL scouts at our games last year and that helps the whole team and the whole league.”
The Badgers open camp the last week of August.
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