Williamson busy building Badgers
Marty Williamson has been busy this summer putting his stamp on the Brock Badgers men’s hockey team.
Williamson, who recently agreed to a three-year deal to remain as head coach after spending last season as interim head coach, has signed up a dozen players after the Badgers graduated 11 players from last season’s squad.
“I’m getting very excited for this group of guys,” Williamson said. “Yes, we had to replace a number of important pieces, but I think we’ve done a good job of that. I see a similar scenario to last year where there was a growing period and then we kept getting better.
“There is kind of a starting over feeling with this group so it will be interesting to learn the chemistry bits.”
Newcomers are local products Jared Marino (Fort Erie), Connor Walters (Welland), Tyler MacArthur (St. Catharines Falcons) and Frank Pucci (Niagara Falls Canucks). The Badgers have also added goaltender Logan Thompson from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Thompson was a second-team all star in the Western Hockey League and will replace Clint Windsor between the pipes. Rounding out the newcomers are forwards Kosta Likourezos (Markham Royals), Tyler Rollo (London Knights), Ryan Burton (Union College), Jason Smith (Georgetown Raiders), Adam Berg (Chilliwack Chiefs), defenceman Christian DeDonato (Newmarket Hurricanes) and goalie Mario Cavailaire (Surrey Eagles/Georgetown Raiders).
With so many new faces, Williamson expects there to be a feeling-out process early on.
“We have a core of guys coming back, but there is a whole group of new guys coming in I really don’t know a whole lot about,” he said. “This core group will be with us for three years which is a nice comfort zone for us. You know you have these guys and then you can bring in a piece or two rather than bring in 12.”
Williamson led the Badgers to a 14-14 regular season record, which was followed by a strong playoff run that included six more wins and a berth in the U SPORTS University Cup National Championships in Fredericton. A first-round loss there ended the season, but Williamson was rewarded with the OUA West and Brock University Coach of the Year titles.
“His level of professionalism and his experience as a coach makes him a perfect fit for what we’re building here,” Brock sports director Neil Lumsden said. “He was put in a tough situation with a very short amount of time to take over a team that wasn’t his, but he made the most of it and his team responded to him.”
The 55-year-old native of Markham, who has 12 years of experience in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara IceDogs and Barrie Colts, quickly noticed the difference between OHL and university hockey, both on an off the ice.
“The youngest guy (in university) is 21 compared to that 16 year old in the O,” he said. “They’ve learned a lot through life lessons.
“It’s much different. I hardly raised my voice last year with them. It was much more talking and they pick things up real quick so that’s a little bit different.”
On the ice, Williamson picked up right away how closely matched the teams are.
“The game is a little bit different. It’s tighter. There is a lot of parity across the league,” he said. “Games are low scoring and tight. You need to buy into that as a team. That’s what our guys did last year.
“There are superstars in our league, but the NHL superstars are gone. You won’t have an Akil Thomas-type player coming into your organization very often. They are usually gone. You’re dealing with a second line-down type player.”
In addition to a half roster full of new players, Williamson will have a new assistant behind the bench with him after Chris Carr resigned.
Kevin Forrest, former head coach at York, has been added and Williamson feels fortunate to have landed him.
“He’s a good recruiter. I was extremely impressed with Chris Carr, I really enjoyed my year with him, but then he took a job with his dad’s company. Kevin came into my lap and was a good fit for us. We don’t know each other that well but we have crossed paths.”
Williamson has high hopes the Badgers can contend not only this season, but be in the mix year after year.
“We believe we can have a shot at it every year. I want to be in that top contention every year. I want to have chance every year and when the good things happen and the right pieces come together, then you can go and compete at the nationals, which is another level.
“There might be some growing pains, but I think we can defend our OUA West title and get back to nationals again.”
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