Every week Ryan breaks down the past weekend’s games (for better or worse) in his “Morning Observations.” Sometimes they’re humorous, sometimes they’re serious, and sometimes they change the world as you know it. Regardless, enjoy the thoughts of Mr. Satkowiak and send all adoration/hate his way to Ryan@bgsuhockey.com.
BG picked up its first win of the season last night, in a game that looked like it was going to lose pretty handily despite playing pretty well.
That’s what happens when you get some bad bounces (literally).
Before we dive into this, I shall provide full disclosure that I did not watch this game. I live in Colorado and am too cheap to pay whatever the fee is to get sub-standard video feed. This is based entirely off the game’s box score and listening to the outstanding radio work of Kevin Meyers and Geoff Roberts from last night (call this blind guy observation, if you will).
What does this win mean for BG? Well, a lot, actually. Let’s get into it:
Resiliency: I’ve heard this word used in reference to BG hockey so many times the last three years that I don’t think it’s really a word that can be used literally anymore. It’s kind of just become part of the fabric of this team’s makeup.
You give up a late-first period goal on what amounts to an unlucky bounce. Halfway though the game you’re down 3-0. Your first goal gets waved off because of a delayed penalty. That’s a lot of potentially spirit-breaking stuff that happened in 30 minutes of hockey. A couple years ago, this team would’ve folded and lost by six. I watched it happen in 2010 against Miami.
But they didn’t, which has become a common theme with this team the last two seasons. Game three, 2012 playoffs against Ferris State — down 3-0 in the first, come back to win in overtime. Last November against Ferris State — down 3-0 with 10 minutes to go in the game before forcing, and losing in, overtime.
A few years ago, BG scoring three goals in a game, period, was a rare enough task. Coming back from three down simply didn’t happen. Now, those three-goal deficits aren’t exactly insurmountable. You can argue the effectiveness of going down 3-0 in the first place, and that’s fair and valid. But the point is the Falcons have shown that all it takes is one play and they are right back into a game.
Burke: Speaking of resiliency, midway though the second period, I was all set to write a, “how long until goaltending is a serious concern for BG?” piece.
I feel that it would have been a fair question. At the moment the thought popped into my head, Burke had given up six goals in four and a half period of action. Tomas Sholl gave up five in his first start. Don’t care how early it is into the season, when your untested goaltending gets shelled like that, that early into the season, that’s a little concerning.
Then a funny think happened. Burke shut the door. It wasn’t a gentle shutting of the door either; he slammed that sucker shut.
“It wasn’t like I was doubting myself,” Burke said after the game, as quoted in the Toledo Blade. “My thought was there was still 30 minutes to play, so let’s shut the door from here. Our defense and forwards made some big blocks. There were a couple of cheesy goals in there, so that shows how well we actually played.”
This kid certainly does not lack confidence. You can tell that the first time you talk to him. He had that same mentality last year, when he wasn’t expected to do anything more than the occasional spot-start for Andrew Hammond.
We’ll avoid the details of his ascent last season since that’s been pretty well documented. He played his best hockey in the third period, denying all 11 Ohio State shots, making sure the Buckeyes could not pull even. It was the type of performance that can kick-start a season.
So will it kick-start the goalies’ season? Your guess is as good as mine. Through three games, Burke and Sholl have combined for a 2.92 GAA and a .880 save percent. Those aren’t good numbers, but it leaves a ton of room for improvement, which is good. The good news is that these two should only get better as the season goes along and they get more game experience. The bad news is they’ll have to do it pretty quick, with another tough test this weekend against a Colgate team that is 2-1 and averaging three goals per game on the season.
Early bet on my part would indicate Burke and Sholl once again splitting the starts this weekend. Expect that to continue for the majority of the season, barring one firmly establishing himself as a much better option.
Forwards: We touched on this last week, but with Ryan Carpenter out for the foreseeable future, BG needs its forwards as a collective whole to step up to pick up the slack. That was pretty evident last night.
Bryce Williamson finally looks like he’s coming into his own. In his final year in the AJHL, he posted 107 points in 60 games. He knows how to score. His first two years at BG he just didn’t do it that much.
Maybe it was too much too early, getting thrown into the fire as a freshman, hindering his development. Whatever the reason, he only had 23 points his first 75 games at BG. His junior year wasn’t exactly one that set the world on fire, but his 12 goals and 19 total points in 40 games was a step in the right direction.
Yes, the season is still young, but in Williamson’s last chance to make an impression before he graduates, he finally looks like he’s up to the challenge. Including the exhibition game (yes, I know, stats don’t count) he has six points in four games. In the three regular season games that do count, he has two goals and an assist.
While using such a small sample size to try and predict success is an exercise in futility, Williamson just seems like a player who is ready for his close-up. Other than Ben Murphy (who we’ll get to in a second), I don’t remember hearing any player’s name mentioned more on the radio call last night than Williamson. He’s all over the ice (in a good way), and is playing with confidence. That’s a good sign for BG.
Speaking of Murphy, he was huge for BG last night, scoring twice on the power play, including the game-winner. He’s already off to a much better start than last year, where he posted 13 points in 40 games. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that he’s the most well rounded forward on the team, and his defensive game can still use some work. But he has a great shot and terrific offensive instincts.
BG’s power play has been bad, even historically bad, the past few seasons. Well, four of BG’s nine goals this season has come with the man advantage. As of this moment, BG is running a 30 percent success rate with the man advantage, which is both nuts and pretty unsustainable. But even if that falls down to a much more realistic 20 percent, that’s still significantly better than the 13.8 percent it had last season, or the … gulp … 8.9 percent it had the year before.
Murphy seems to have entrenched himself as a go-to guy on the power play unit. With Ralfs Freibergs, who assisted on Murphy’s game-winner, making plays from the point, and the bevy of options BG now has down low, the Falcons appear to be in pretty decent shape offensively, even as Carpenter remains out. Speaking of which …
The road ahead: BG has two days to get ready for it’s next test, a meeting with Colgate. The Raiders were 14-18-4 last season, including a 1-1 mark against BG. That series was the first regular season action of Tommy Burke’s collegiate career, as he replaced Hammond 29 seconds into the first game.
As we touched on above, Colgate is 2-1 this year, splitting with Ferris State two weekends ago and defeating RIT last Thursday. So far this season, the Raiders have scored four goals in two of their games, and scored once in the other.
They lost their opener to Ferris, 7-4. That was the last time goalie Charlie Finn has seen the ice.
Eric Mihalik has started each of the last two games and has been dominant, allowing only one goal on 42 shots, good for a .50 GAA and a .976 save percent. OK, granted, the tests haven’t been great. Ferris only put 25 shots on him, and RIT is 0-2 this season and also lost its exhibition game.
Mihalik started the second game against BG last year, stopping 20 of 22 shots in the 4-2 win, but had a 2.88 GAA and a .901 save percent for the year.
The key for BG? Just shoot the puck. As we saw last night, good things happen when you put the puck on net. I’m not talking about just carelessly throwing it toward the goal right as you enter the zone, but trying to get too cute in the offensive zone has hurt BG in the past. Putting solid pressure on Colgate in their end, and thus keeping the play out of the defensive zone, will go a long way in helping the Falcons attain a positive result.
Fanatics: We can close this one off with the crowd, which sounded like it was a great turnout, especially for a Tuesday night.
Announced attendance was 2,752, with about half of that coming from students. Multiple times you could hear the chants from the student section through the radio broadcast, which gave me a good chuckle.
That being said, it was still Ohio State. Along with Michigan and, to an extent, Notre Dame and Miami, that always was the big draw the past couple of years. I’m very interested to see what the crowd looks like this weekend against Colgate, not exactly one of those name-brand schools that brings a lot of attention with them.
I mean, last season’s opening weekend against Union, a much better team than Colgate but similarly anonymous when it comes to students who don’t really pay that much attention to college hockey as a whole, averaged only about 2,100 fans for the two games.
As always, I feel like this is worth repeating: you have a core group of fans and students (hi Falcon Fanatics!) who show up to every game, no matter the opponent. They are great; they’re what “school spirit” is all about. But a couple hundred students do not make a student section.
I think this weekend will be very telling as to what attendance figures are going to look like throughout the season. Every year, you could always count on getting a significant turnout for OSU and Michigan. The last time Michigan was at BG, 10,000 people showed up for the two games.
It was always the other games that left a lot to be desired in terms of crowd capacity. Well, this year, “the other games” are going to be all of BG’s remaining home games.
If the team continues to play like they have, I don’t think it will be an issue. Fair assessment or not, your average student at mid-major schools are notoriously fair-weathered. I know I was. Plus, the hockey games are fun to go to. The tight, compacted seating and low roof creates a more intimate environment and makes you feel like you are right on top of the action.
That being said, if the team starts to struggle, it could be tough. It’s already going to be a hard enough sell to get the casual students excited for Bemidji State or Alabama-Huntsville. Then factor in they either have to either pay $5 for parking or walk anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes, in what is going to increasingly be colder weather, to get to the arena.
I hope that doesn’t end up being the case. It was really neat to see players tweeting their thanks to the fans last night. There’s no doubt in my mind that the crowd helped sway momentum in BG’s favor late in the second and early in the third period. And, speaking from personal experiences, there’s very little cooler than experiencing a packed BGSU Ice Arena as a fan.
I guess time will tell. This time next week we could be sitting here again talking about how great the crowd was again. But it also would not surprise me if we’re saying, “man, I can’t believe only 1,800 people saw that game Saturday night.” If I were to bet, it’s gonna lean closer to the second one. Prove me wrong, fans.