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.
Ho boy what a weekend it was. After, by all measurable accounts other than final score, being the better team Friday and tying, BG came out guns blazing Saturday, putting up 50 shots and seven goals in a total and complete steamrolling of Colgate.
Before we dig into too much of the game, I’d like to convey my thanks to the team for winning me a bet. Alex Clark, one of our marketing managers at USA Hockey, is a Colgate alumnus. Our bet was the loser (in case of a split, goal differential was the tiebreaker) would have to sing the opposing school’s fight song at our next staff meeting. Can’t wait to hear “Ay Ziggy Zoomba” sung in the near future.
Anyway, other than the absolute bamboozling of Lake Superior in the playoffs last season, I can’t remember a more dominating all-around effort from BG since I’ve been following the team. Like, Saturday’s game was borderline NSFW. Let’s get into it.
Firepower: I feel like this is probably going to be something we’re going to talk about ad nauseam at least until Ryan Carpenter comes back. I’ve touched on this in pretty much everything I’ve written so far this season, but BG needed its other forwards to step up.
I can say with 100 percent certainty that my declaration is not the reason they’ve stepped up. But I’m going to pretend that it is because that’s fun to do.
The Falcons have not missed a single beat without Carpenter in the lineup. Bryce Williamson has been a revelation this season, finally playing with the offensive efficiency the coaching staff undoubtedly expected from him when he was brought in. He has four goals and three assists in five games. He had 12 goals and seven assists in 40 games last season. He looks as if he’s going to crush that pace this year.
Dan DeSalvo is looking more and more like the player we saw last season, not the one from his freshman year. Not that that’s a bad thing. He has a goal and five assists in five games, after having five goals and 20 assists last season. His transformation to full-time center appears to have finally completed; he is probably the best pivot on the team.
How about Ben Murphy? His game has been one-dimensional, but it’s a pretty good dimension. He has four goals and an assist in five games, three of those goals coming on the power play.
Mark Cooper has two goals and three assists; Brent Tate has two goals and an assist in three games; Ralfs Freibergs has four assists. They’ve gotten good contributions from the freshmen. BG’s offense is clicking on all cylinders.
One issue in past years with guys getting off to hot starts is the level of competition had been worse than the CCHA teams, so once league games started, BG players fell back to earth with their production.
That’s not necessarily the case this year. As has been discussed, the WCHA is not the CCHA. I don’t think we’ll see this many guys producing like this for the majority of the season, but I also don’t think we’ll see guys like Williamson or DeSalvo completely fall off the face of the earth either.
That leads to another point: what happens when Ryan Carpenter comes back?
The easy answer is, “well Ryan, he’s the team’s best player so clearly they’re going to get better.” And really, I don’t have any reason to suspect anything else.
But let me be a contrarian for a quick minute. With the way this team is clicking right now, what if throwing someone who has not played since the exhibition game completely screws up the chemistry the team has found so far this season? It wouldn’t be unheard of for that to happen.
But in reality, I really don’t think it’ll matter. In keeping up with my required Kevin Gordon reading, we know that Carpenter could be back sometime in November, which sounds about par for the course. By the time he’s ready, BG could be in a huge offensive slump and his return would be a huge shot in the arm. That also wouldn’t be unheard of to happen.
Rather, BG’s offensive proficiency is the best thing that could’ve happened for Carpenter’s recovery. The Falcons are scoring just fine without him. While his presence and leadership are surely missed on the ice during the game, he hasn’t been needed for the team to win. Which means, while he’s a competitor and I guarantee wants to get back as soon as he can, he doesn’t need to rush back and risk re-injuring himself. He can bide his time and make sure he’s 100 percent ready.
Goalies: I guess the answer to the rhetorical “will the OSU game turn the tide for BG’s goalies” question was a resounding “yes.”
Neither goalie was supremely busy, but both made a number of really good saves. Tommy Burke stopped 19 of 20 shots in Friday’s tie, and Tomas Sholl picked up his first collegiate win/shutout by stopping all 20 shots Saturday.
Remember when I said the key for BG was simply to shoot the puck, to control the pace and keep the puck out of the defensive zone? Well I feel pretty smart right now. BG out-shot Colgate 89-40 in the two games, including a 50-20 mark Saturday. That’s probably more impressive than the 8-1 score margin.
Anyway, Friday was a good follow-up for Burke, who shut the door the last 29 minutes Tuesday against Ohio State. But I was incredibly impressed with Sholl’s outing.
The first loss against Union easily could have broken him. Five goals in your first collegiate start is not the way you want to get going. Granted, four of them came while short handed, so it’s not like he was outclassed or anything.
But coming back to pitch the shutout is huge. Simply put, it’s a huge confidence booster. He finally got a chance to show what he could do when he is continually being bombarded while short handed.
Once again, it’s not like he was tested a bunch, which goes for Burke as well. It’ll be interesting to see if these guys can stand up to facing 30-plus shots on a consistent basis, like Andrew Hammond did last year. But if BG’s defense is going strong offense (which I think fans would be plenty OK with) then all these guys need to do is avoid costly mistakes. They did that and then some this weekend.
Complete: How many times in past years have we seen BG put up a great effort in Friday games and follow that up with a stinker Saturday? Simply put, too many to count.
We saw it against Union last week. I think there were maybe only two instances last year where BG played a better Saturday game than Friday.
Before we start getting ahead of ourselves, yes it was only one weekend. But seeing the team play well Friday and only get a tie, and follow that up with an even stronger effort is encouraging.
Crowd: This is probably going to also be something that I talk about a lot because I think it’s going to be incredibly fascinating to follow as the season progresses. Average attendance for the two games was about 2,200. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s about 300 lower than last season’s average attendance. (As an aside, I saw somewhere on Twitter at some point this weekend that about half of the attendance was from students, which is once again great).
I wanted to touch on this because, as I said last week, I feel this weekend is going to be much more indicative of what the crowds will look like for the majority of the season.
Looking at BG’s schedule, the most notable team BG plays at home the rest of the season is between Minnesota State or Lake Superior. Last year against Lake, BG had about 3,000 in the stands for both games. Granted, the second game was the night Freddie and Frieda were unmasked, but I digress.
The simple solution here is winning. Winning cures everything. Last year, the football game against Kent State was, other than Boise State and Toledo, the fullest I’d personally seen Doyt Perry Stadium. Why? The MAC East was on the line.
As long as the team keeps winning, interest will grow. People will come out to see them play, regardless of who the opponent is. That’s, unfortunately, what happens when you’re at a school that the team does not have a recent history of success.
The Falcons have to give people a reason to come out and watch, because they don’t have the luxury of big-name schools to draw in fans anymore.
Polls: We’ll continue this little Debbie Downer run to finish this bad boy off. Last week BG received three votes in the USCHO.com top 20. Many people were excited about this. BG is also likely to receive a few more votes this week. This will also probably excite people even more.
I’m here to tell you to slow your roll. Like, a lot. This is not college football. There are only 59 Division I college hockey teams. Last week, with the votes they had, BG was technically raked as the 36th best team in the nation. That’s middle of the road; technically speaking it’s slightly below average. Yes, that’s better than in past years, but that’s not something to be super duper excited about.
Only the top 16 schools in the nation make the NCAA Tournament. With how poorly the WCHA is perceived, it’s a safe bet to say only the postseason tournament winner is going to make that field.
Yes, the fact that I’m even talking about this speaks to how far the program has come the last couple of years. Is the NCAA Tournament even an attainable goal for this year? Probably not. But you never know.
The purpose of this point is not to diminish anything BG has done so far this year or make anyone feel crummy about it. It’s to provide a little perspective to the polls. Because — especially with the USCHO top 20 as opposed to the USA Today top 15 — when 34 percent of teams that compete are ranked, being in the “others receiving votes” category isn’t really something to be excited about.
The being said, BG’s schedule sets up nicely for a continued climb toward an actual respectable position in these polls. The team gets this weekend off, which given the way they’ve been playing isn’t necessarily a good thing, before returning to action next Tuesday at Ohio State. The Falcons return home Nov. 1 and 2 to take on Alaska-Anchorage.
Following that, BG gets the toughest bit of its schedule. Weekend sets at Minnesota State, at Ferris State, at home against Minnesota State, at Lake Superior (which has started off 4-0 after sweeping Union this weekend).
Things get pretty calm the next two weeks for BG. But we will find out exactly how good this team is during its November slate.