Is it really proper to keep calling these “Morning Observations” when I don’t do them until evening? It’s a paradox, whatever. We’ll roll with it.
We won’t go into a ton of detail today (tonight. Again, whatever) because I’m saving my words for when I tee off on college hockey rankings tomorrow (again). But there is a little bit to talk about from this weekend’s spilt against Minnesota State.
Yes, a split against a top team in the conference is good. But as coach Chris Bergeron said after Saturday’s game, the team is at a point where it should be looking to sweep every weekend. That being said, fighting back to win Saturday after what was categorically its worst game of the season Friday is positive.
It seems like that word “resilient” has been around this team for as long as Bergeron has been there. I’m not sure if that still being an adjective describing this team is a good thing or not, because if you have to be resilient a lot, bad things are happening more than they should. I actually thought about this for a good 10 minutes this morning.
After that reflection I decided, yeah, it’s a good thing. Why? Well when you think about it, bad things are going to happen every year. That’s just the way the law of averages works: you’re going to have ups and downs.
This team learned to be resilient a long time before it learned to be a winner. If we’re being honest, this team is still in the adolescent stages of learning how to win. The Falcons learned how to respond to adversity sometime late in Bergeron’s first season, the year they won that playoff series at Northern Michigan, the first time a No. 11 seed won a CCHA playoff series.
It’s a trait they never really lost. Obviously, if they’re going to script the rest of the season, you’d think they’d want to emit the low points that mean they have to be resilient. But that’s not practical. You have to take the lumps as they come and do your best to bounce back. The first time the Falcons needed to do that this season, they did so Saturday.
Berkle: While it doesn’t show on the stat sheet (at least as much as it did in his two assist night on Friday) I thought Adam Berkle played his strongest game of the season Saturday.
He had the assist on Tyler Spezia’s game-winning goal. It was a great play on the forecheck. He was physical down low, taking the puck from Zach Palmquist (who, at worse, is one of the three best defensemen in the WCHA). When Palmquist tied him up, he used his feet to direct a perfect pass through the crease to a wide open Spezia.
That play was just a snapshot of his game. He was fast and physical all night. He drew a penalty late in the third period that was a direct product of his aggressive play. That’s the kind of thing you don’t see in the box score the next morning.
Rather quietly, he has four assists his past three games. Throw in Dan DeSalvo, who has assists in back-to-back games, and Spezia, who has four goals his last three games, and that line is starting to get hot. As the sophomore line inevitably starts to slow down, having another line step up would be huge for the Falcons.
Burke: After Tomas Sholl struggled Friday, it was good to see Tommy Burke have his best start of the season Saturday. Also kind of quietly, with a 1.95 goals-against average and .928 save percent, he now has the best numbers of the three goalies on the roster.
We’ll see what happens in net this weekend. With only two starts, smart money says Chris Nell is one the two going to Alaska. How it seems they’ve been doing it is start a guy back-to-back weekends then giving him the next off. That would indicate that Sholl is the second guy traveling to Alaska. But after their respective performances this weekend, that might not be the case.
Alaska: Obviously every WCHA weekend is huge, but give a little extra importance to this one against an Alaska team that just got swept in its first WCHA road trip of the season.
The Nanooks are usually better at home, for obvious reasons. That’s a long trip that’s four time zones away. It’s the first of two Alaskan trips this year for BG, which can’t be fun.
The Nanooks started 5-1, thanks mostly to going 4-0 in two Alaskan hockey classics. They got exposed a little bit by Bemidji this weekend, especially defensively. But they’ll be hungry to atone, and will be once again at home. That’s a dangerous recipe for BG to be walking into.
It goes without saying that in a conference where the difference where third and ninth place can be separated by three points, every game is important. But the Falcons have a chance to not point bury Alaska in an 0-4 WCHA hole to begin the season, but also to continue to add to their own point totals. Should be another interesting weekend in WCHA land.