Morning Observations: Bad Habits Return

By November 18, 2013Opinion

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.

Everyone loves nachos right?

You know when you go to a restaurant and get a big plate of them as an appetizer, and you’re eating through them and it’s fantastic? But you didn’t have a solid attack plan and the last six or seven chips don’t have any toppings to go with them and you’re sad? Well BG was that guy eating the big plate of nachos this weekend.

They were enjoying those nachos early on through the second period — and in Friday’s case deep into the third — before they ran out of toppings and begrudgingly ate the final few chips plain, coughing up a pair of leads.

Do you like my food analogy? I hope so, because it’s probably going to be the last nice thing I say in this. Can that even be considered as nice? I bet you at least want some nachos now.

Failure: For all intents and purposes, this weekend was a massive failure for BG. Yes, they got a point in Friday’s game with a tie, but at this point that’s just a minor footnote.

OK it’s not a massive, this-ruins-the-season failure, but it showed, to me, that this team still hasn’t gotten past some of the bad habits of last season. Which, quite frankly, means I don’t think they’re quite ready to be a top-two team in the WCHA.

Accuse me of overreaction if you want. I can certainly understand where you would be coming with from that. But great teams don’t give up third period leads. They certainly don’t do it twice in one weekend. And dear whatever existential deity you believe in, they don’t give up two in the final two minutes of regulation to let the game get to overtime.

You know what the frustrating thing is? BG was the better team for the majority of these two games. The Falcons held the shot advantage both nights. They had 40 on Friday. Even though they were down entering the third, they kept battling and got three goals in 10 minutes. But that doesn’t mean jack squat when you crap your pants in the last two minutes.

And Saturday? Nothing like a nice shorthanded goal allowed to absolutely kill your momentum. Does that not remind you of last year, where BG allowed like eight shorties?  And then, late in the third down one, literally eight seconds after going on the power play, Mark Cooper takes a tripping penalty? That’s not smart hockey.

As I said, BG did not play bad this weekend. If we’re being honest, for the majority of the weekend they were the better team and should have won both games.

But the fact is, all that matters here is record, and on the weekend that was zero wins. This team is past the stage of the “well we played great against the top team in our conference” moral victories. If you want to be regarded as the best, you have to beat the best. To do that you have to avoid these juvenile mental errors that I thought this team had gotten past. Apparently not.

Defense: Brief footnote here, but this was the worst defensive weekend for BG since the opening weekend against Union. Seven goals allowed (granted, one empty netter) is by far the most since that weekend, and BG allowed 60 shots on a weekend for the first time this season.

Maybe it’s just facing better teams, or maybe it’s a sign of shifting philosophy a bit, but BG allowed 58 shots the weekend before against Mankato. Those are the two highest shots against totals of the season.

BG still leads, or co-leads, I should say, the WCHA in goals against per game. But that is now at 2.42, not a overly fantastic number. It will be interesting to see if these high number of shots against continue to be a trend, or if it was just a two-week outlier.

Carp: I don’t think anyone can help but feel bad for Ryan Carpenter.

I’m using a very unscientific metric here, but he’s one of, if not the hardest worker on the team. Multiple times when I was still at BG, I would show up to practice to interview him afterward, and I’d always have to wait because he was always one of the last ones off the ice. Like I’m sure is true for everyone on the team, he wants to play in the NHL. He has pro talent, and he puts in the work to ensure the pros are an attainable goal for him.

And that work has paid off for him. Coming into the season, he was regarded as one of the three best forwards in the WCHA. Lots of people — people not just inside the program — expected him to have a huge year. Huge enough that he might have been persuaded to skip his senior year to go pro early.

A hand injury in the exhibition game derailed the start of his season. But he worked hard to get back in time for this weekend against Ferris, and a broken foot once again threw that start time into question.

When that is? I don’t know. As we’ve touched on before I’m not a medical expert. It doesn’t sound like he’ll need surgery. As far as I can tell from the internet, that’s about a six to eight week recovery time.

The issue with a foot injury, compare to a hand, is he can’t really do a ton of cardio with a broken foot. So once he’s able to engage in physical activity again, it’s going to take a couple weeks for him to get back into game shape.

So if we want to be optimistic and say he’s good to skate in six weeks, then give another two for reconditioning, that has him ready to go in mid-January. Again, that would be best case.

The good thing though, is BG doesn’t play a ton in December/early January. The Falcons have two WCHA series’ in December, and one is against Huntsville so that barely counts. They play in the Three Rivers Classic the weekend after Christmas against Boston College (who is really, really good) and then either Penn State or Robert Morris.

BG then plays at Huntsville and at home against Alaska in early January, with a bye week between the Alaska series and a home set against Lake. Could that Lake series be a realistic return date? Maybe. I wouldn’t bet against it.

Another thing I saw mentioned by someone on Twitter would be medical redshirt. Unless there’s some severe complication and Carpenter isn’t going to be able to skate until May, that is 100 percent not going to happen.

Typically, medical redshirts are for injuries that are legitimately season ending. And in the events they aren’t really, but take it close enough to the end of the season that teams just pretend a guy can’t play for the sake of saving a season of eligibility, they’re for guys who don’t really have any designs on a career at the next level, or at least need that extra year for development.

As we mentioned above, Carpenter doesn’t really need that extra year, so holding him out for this season for a fifth year he probably wouldn’t even use is not wise. Especially since you would get him back for the last four or five WCHA weekends, all against teams BG should beat even without him, and for the WCHA playoffs. Adding Carpenter would be like a trade deadline acquisition. Not only that, but Carpenter would be fresh, obviously not having played in a game all season, and undoubtedly hungry to make a mark.

Plus, if BG wasn’t going to redshirt Ralfs Freibergs last year — and he only played in the last three regular season games — they aren’t going to hold out Carpenter any longer than they need to.

That means, as the Williamson-Cooper-Murphy power outage continues, others have to step up to keep BG’s offense — which has fallen to fifth in the WCHA in goals per game — floating. That happened a bit this weekend.

The Tate-DeSalvo-Mingo line has been solid, and produced a goal this weekend. Tate has a strong eight points in 10 games, and DeSalvo now leads BG with 12 points. It was great to see Cam Wojtala get a goal as well.

In game two, freshmen Kevin Dufour and Matt Pohlkamp scored the goals, another positive sign. It’s kind of once again turned into scoring by committee for BG, but as long as everyone is chipping in, they don’t need a huge point producer. But you can’t sacrifice the defensive proficiency the team had been playing with to achieve that offense.

November: I touched on this almost ad nauseam prior to the month, but BG is now halfway through its hellacious part of the schedule, so I figured it would be a good time to revisit.

Throw in Alaska-Anchorage, and BG is 3-2-1 this month. Not terrible, but not great. But, take out that UAA series and BG is 1-2-1 in this eight-game stretch against the top teams of the WCHA. That is not good.

Again, that record is a tad deceiving because it makes it look like BG has been having circles run around it. That’s not true, but in the end all that matters is the results, which have not been good.

BG gets Mankato again this weekend, this time at home. The Mavericks didn’t have any success last weekend, but they played No. 1 Minnesota that’s a pretty good explanation why. Next weekend, BG is at Lake, a team that has fallen back down to earth a bit after a roaring start to the season.

These next two weeks are of the utmost importance. After last weekend, it’s pretty easy to let that linger and get caught in a rut. BG can’t let that happen, because that’s how you get into a hole you can’t get yourself out of. Plus, it would be nice to help Mankato dig a little deeper hole.

If we’re being honest, BG needs to win three of these next four. Yes, that means it needs to sweep either Mankato or Lake. A 3-1 finish would bring this eight-game run to 4-3-1. That’s good, not great, but it would set BG up nicely with some momentum for its two December WCHA series’, and finishing the first half on a strong note would definitely be a good thing.

Ryan Satkowiak

About Ryan Satkowiak

Ryan is a features and column writer for BGSUHockey.com. During the day, he works part time for the Sentinel-Tribune and the Findlay Courier, and is a part-time people seater at Buffalo Wild Wings. Ryan covered the BG hockey team for The BG News for two and a half years during his time at BG. You can chat him up on Twitter @Ryan_Satkowiak or by e-mail at Ryan@bgsuhockey.com.

  • Hockeyman

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but ralfs did not want to be redshirted. I’m pretty sure we wanted to, but he didn’t want to stay an extra year.

    • Ryan Satkowiak

      You’re right in regards that he didn’t want to redshirt. In doing a little digging, Bergeron said at the time of suspension, “We’ll cross that bridge once we get to that point of the season,” in regards to redshirting. When they broached the topic with Ralfs, I don’t think it was approached in any way other than, “what do you want to do?” Once Ralfs said he didn’t want to, I’m led to believe that was the end of it. Sure, they’d love to have him for an extra year, but I don’t think there was pressure one way or the other. Obviously I’m completely speculating here and drawing from what little I remember from last season’s pressers. But I would imagine it’s sort of close.

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