Program on the Rise: Brock Womens Hockey Team Returns to Playoffs
The Brock Women’s Hockey program last tasted the playoffs
in the 2005-06 campaign, and the players from that team who remain
to represent Brock in 2008-09 could not be more thrilled to return
to the post season.
“It’s the most exciting part of the year [the playoffs], everything we have worked for all year has come together, and this is a reflection of our hard work and dedication, we deserve it” said Michelle Lee, a fourth-year forward from Innisfil, ON who is one of only four members of the current squad who have OUA playoff experience.
“There is a lot of similarities this year [to the 2005-06 team], the leaders have really stepped up and performed. Every member of our team knows their role, has accepted it and is contributing with every opportunity they are given” noted Lee, who led the team in scoring during the 2007-08 campaign and contributed 14 points this season.
Fourth-year Captain Kristy Ashton echoed Lee’s sediments “There are no individuals, we are a team working together with everyone contributing in their own ways towards a single goal both on and off the ice.”
After a disappointing 2007-08 campaign in which the Badgers finished 7-13-7; Coach Todd Erskine spent a great deal of time preparing for this season and was able to bring twelve new faces into the dressing room to dawn the Badgers Red and Blue.
“Excellent goaltending, team defense and work ethic” was the expectation of Erskine, who noted that these were three of the main factors in prior successful seasons.
From the outset of this season, it appeared as though things were going to be different than past seasons. Erskine and his fellow coaches, Sandy Staniforth, Jim Denham, Al Stoddard and Briar Komenda were extremely confident right out of training camp and excited for a successful season.
The Badgers did not disappoint as they set a Badger team record for victories in the first half of the season, entering the Christmas break with seven victories, against five losses and two overtime losses.
A major part of this years success has been the camaraderie in the dressing room among the Badgers, “They are like family [teammates], when we have time off, we all choose to spend it together, even though we see each other every day” added Lee.
Erskine also made reference to the vibe in the dressing room, “with the addition of this years rookies we have added depth at every position and have an outstanding team atmosphere”
Third-year goaltender Beth Clause (Hamilton, ON), who played in 26 of 27 games for the Badgers in her sophomore season returned to serve as the Badgers go-to player this season.
Clause did not disappoint the Badgers faithful as she re-wrote the record books for Badgers goaltenders and remained steadily in the Top-10 goaltenders in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) in statistics throughout the season.
“She [Clause] is the heart and soul of our team, she keeps us in every single game, and when we are facing hard times, she is always there to make the unthinkable save to lift our confidence” raved Lee.
Captain Kristy Ashton echoed Lee’s praise for their goaltender, “her [Clause] communication on and off the ice helps the defensemen in our own zone and as a defensemen, knowing we have a top goalie behind us gives us confidence”
Erskine noted, “Clausey [Beth Clause] wants to be the best at her position in the CIS and has proven that this season. Her work ethic and mental focus is at such a high level”
In the 2008-09 regular season, Clause led the CIS in total saves and finished in the Top-10 in wins, save percentage, goals against average and shutouts.
In terms of the Badgers Record Books, Clause re-wrote the book setting nine new records, including season records; Most Shutouts (4), Wins in a Season (13), Minutes Played in a Season (1647), Goals Against Average (1.79), Saves Made (790) and Save Percentage (.942). Clause also set three career records; Shutouts (6), Wins (22) and Minutes played (3808).
With Clause leading the way, the Badgers set a team record for Goals Against in a season, allowing only 53 goals in 27 games, including never allowing in excess of four goals in a single game.
“Having so many rookies coming into this season was a huge scare, however, they have been learning quickly and taking feedback from the veterans and the coaches and have picked up on how important communication is, which is a big improvement from past years” said Clause in discussion of four rookie defensemen who have skated in front of her this season.
Ashton noted the following of her fellow defensemen “Our rookie defensemen came in this year with great skill, without much instruction they were ready for the OUA game. Each of the them is very reliable and have given confidence to their teammates to not only keep the puck out of our net, but also to contribute in the offensive zone”
After a difficult sophomore campaign, Kelly Walker (Brampton, ON) returned to her old self this season, notching 24 points (12G, 12A), finishing tenth overall in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) scoring.
“Every second of the game, she [Walker] is giving 110% percent, she has proven herself as both a goal scorer and playmaker and her attitude is among the most positive in the dressing room” commended Ashton.
Kristy Ashton (Port Perry, ON) also knows what the playoffs feel like, having been a member of the 05-06 team. Ashton is in her fourth season as a member of the Badgers and has led by example all season, both on and off ice. Her on-ice play earned her 15 points this year (5G, 10A), which allowed her to finish in the Top-5 among CIS defensemen in scoring and set a new Badgers season record for Points by a Defensemen.
Lee praised her captain, “She [Ashton] has been the rock of this team all year, she is there for us and has proven not only to our team, but to the entire CIS that she is an unbelievable player and leader. She led not only through putting points on the board, but also by working hard on and off the ice to improve herself and those around her.”
Erskine added, “Ashton has shown a great deal of hard work and dedication and it has paid off, she is leading by example and cares so much for the team and the desire to win as a team”
In addition to her teammates, Ashton gave credit to trainers Amanda Lacroix, Jackie Camley and Alison Longo who have been exceptional in keeping the Badgers players prepared for each game throughout the season and managed a variety of Badger injuries quickly and effectively to limit lost games due to injury.
Ashton also gave credit to her predecessor as Badgers Captain, Briar Komenda who joined the Badgers coaching staff this season as an Assistant Coach, whose responsibilities are related to the Strength and Conditioning of the players. The conditioning program that the Badgers execute put them in game shape from the outset of the season and the team conditioning has remained at a level that allows them to compete for sixty minutes in every game.
Ann Lavallee (Burlington, ON) and Lana Norris (Inglewood, ON) are the other two remaining players from the 2005-06 playoff squad. Lavallee, in her fifth year with the Badgers is the Active Record holder for Most Career Penalty Minutes (174). Norris has been a steady contributor as a defensive forward for the Badgers. Both players serve as Assistant Captains on this year’s team.
“All I can think about is next Tuesday at 7:00 PM, hitting the ice and ensuring that last Saturday [February 21 against Guelph] was not my last home game,” stated Lavallee.
With an exceptional regular season behind them, the Badgers (13-10-0-4) are now preparing for the playoffs, which will kick off on Tuesday, March 3rd when they travel to Toronto to take on the No. 9 ranked York Lions (15-12-0-0) at 7:00 PM. There will be fan transportation available, departing from Brock Campus at 5:00 PM and returning following the game. The cost is $10/person. For more information, visit www.gobadgers.ca.
In order to be successful in the playoffs, the Badgers will need to “take things one shift at a time and play a hard working, simple game” according to their Head Coach Erskine.
The Badgers swept the season series with the Lions, winning three one-goal contests (1-0, 4-3, and 3-2). Despite their successes against the Lions thus far this season, the Lions are not to be taken lightly after pulling off upsets of the No. 8 University of Toronto Varsity Blues and most recently the No. 2 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, who were previously undefeated in twenty-six games this season.
The Golden Hawks, who finished first in the OUA, will await the winner of the Brock and York contest for a best-of-three Semi-Final Series set to begin Friday, March 7th.
For more information on the Badgers, visit www.gobadgers.ca