In her first full season playing for the Brock University Badgers, Whistler’s Camie Matteau Rushbrook helped her team punch its ticket to the U Sports National Championship in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on March 25.
Unfortunately, the Badgers fell short, dropping their first game of the single-elimination tournament 4-0 to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. But despite the lopsided final score, the game was close right until the end with the U of S taking a 1-0 lead into the third before adding to their lead in the second half of the final frame.
Heading into the tournament, Matteau Rushbrook said the team didn’t want to settle for just being the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) division champions, but wanted “to go all the way,” with their sights set on being national champs.
And while they weren’t able to capitalize on that goal, looking back on the season as a whole she couldn’t be more proud of what her team accomplished in her first full season with Brock.
“I am so proud to be part of this amazing group. After two long, difficult years dealing with the pandemic, our team was able to persevere and win an OUA championship—the first in program history,” she said. “Everything we accomplished this year was a full group effort and I could not be more thankful to have gone through this amazing experience with this group of people.”
After being limited to practicing in her first year at Brock last year, Matteau Rushbrook said while it was a bit of a roller-coaster season, this year has exceeded all of her expectations.
“It’s definitely a lot faster-paced than anything I was used to playing before, but it’s a really good time and the team here is awesome,” she said. “It’s a big adjustment coming from minor hockey … obviously the game is a lot faster-paced and there is a lot more experienced players on the ice, but after that initial adjustment period it’s just so much fun. [There are] so many opportunities to learn from players who have been around for a long time and been really successful.”
Heading into the year, Matteau Rushbrook’s focus was set on carving out a role on the team and cementing her position in the lineup. And describing herself as more of a grinder than a scorer, she said she has been able to earn the trust of her teammates and coaches through her hard work and gritty play so far this season.
“It’s kind of like a whole year of trying to prove yourself a little bit, trying to prove that you deserve the ice time you are getting and all that stuff. So I’ve been able to do that and my coaches have been able to put me where they think they see me fit,” said Matteau Rushbrook.
“I’ve definitely never been a big goal scorer, but they like to put me out there to stop the pucks from going in the net and working hard and kind of getting the energy up on the bench and on the ice, so that’s been really good. And my coaches have been really great at letting me use that and letting me use my skills to get the team going a little bit.”
The Badgers started the year strong going 6-1 through their first seven games, but ended up sputtering a bit down the stretch. With the losses piling up on top of a handful of games being postponed or cancelled in the middle of the year, the Badgers wound up with a final record of 10-9 heading into the playoffs.
Needing to refocus before the single elimination OUA division playoffs, the Badgers held a players meeting to discuss what needed to be done to reach their goals.
“We went through the bracket for playoffs, and I remember looking at it and us being like, ‘wow, we only really need to win three games,’” she said about the new playoff format adopted by the OUA for this season, which switched from a best-two-out-of-three format to single elimination.
“We all kind of looked at each other and were like, ‘We have talent on the team to do this and we all want it really, really bad, it would be such a great way to end a really long two years back, just to see some success.’”
Their efforts paid off and the Badgers won all three games in the OUA playoffs to book their ticket to the National Championship.
However, even having the advantage of playing in do-or-die playoff situations for the past month already, it wasn’t enough for the Badgers in their opening game against the Huskies.
The Badgers would go on to lose their next game in the consolation bracket 2-0 against the University of P.E.I.
But despite going winless—and goalless—in the National Championships, Matteau Rushbrook believes this experience was invaluable for a young Badgers team, and could be the foundation for future success.
“It is so cool to have made nationals in my first official year with the team. We trained so hard over last year’s lockdown and into this season—it’s amazing to finally be rewarded for all our hard work,” she said. “Although we have several graduating players, I am confident that our team will be successful in the coming years. All of us young players gained invaluable experience from our playoff run this year that we will be able to carry with us into next season. This has been such an incredible year for our program, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”