The Brock Badgers are ready to hit the ice in front a sold-out crowd at the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines to battle for the 20th annual Steel Blade Classic on Friday, Sept. 21.
The excitement begins with the downtown Homecoming Tailgate Party at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Brock’s Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, followed by the faceoff against the Guelph Gryphons at 7 p.m.
Longtime Brock supporter and avid university hockey fan Ed Werner came up with the Steel Blade concept 20 years ago to help recognize the historical connections of Brock University and to raise the profile of the men’s hockey team.
“It’s a real celebration of the school,” said men’s hockey head coach Marty Williamson. “I’m only one year into it and I was shocked how exciting this event was. Homecoming is a fantastic weekend. I’ve stood on that bench many times when I was in the OHL and the energy and passion for the Steel Blade game is unbelievable. It’s the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard in that building. It really is. You can barely talk to your players. You can’t even communicate with them because there’s just a buzz going on.”
The Steel Blade Classic trophy, which carries the name of the annual champions, was a donation of the Werner family. The sword is an 1803 pattern, non-commissioned officer’s hanger. It was the sword carried by sergeants of the Upper Canada Artillery Units and Royal Artillery during the War of 1812.
The Badgers can’t wait to begin their 2018-19 hockey campaign after last year posting a record of 14-9-5 and going on a wild playoff run with upsets over Guelph, York and Laurier before being knocked out of the U SPORTS National Championship quarter-finals.
Williamson is looking forward to his second season with Brock and worked hard over the summer on the recruitment trail.
This year’s recruitment class consists of a strong group of forwards along with defenceman Connor Walters of Welland, who won the Memorial Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Badgers bolstered their lineup down the middle with centreman Tyler Rollo of the London Knights.
Williamson hinted at the idea that newcomer Logan Thompson may see some time in between the pipes during the Steel Blade game.
It depends if Thompson is back in time and can squeeze in a practice with the Badgers after spending most of the month with the Washington Capitals.
Thompson, who stands 6-foot-3, played three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL and received an invite to Caps’ camp over the summer.
“We would be extremely excited to get him back, but we also have total confidence in (goalies) Mario Cavaliere and Pottsy (Alex Brooks-Potts),” said Williamson.
Brock has iced two completely different rosters during the OUA pre-season, so Steel Blade will be made up of a lot of hungry players looking to make the lineup.
“It’s a great exhibition game for us because there’s a ton of atmosphere where you can really evaluate players,” said Williamson. “The competitive juices will be running. You don’t walk out of the tunnel at the Steel Blade game to 5,000 fans cheering you on and not give it your all to win the game. We have a tough choice to make because we have a lot of players on our roster, but can only dress 21 and they all want to be in this game.”