Morning Observations: Winning Ugly

By November 24, 2014Opinion

You know you’re kind of moving on up in the world when you start nitpicking wins.

Yup. In past years, any wins BG was able to accumulate were good. Maybe we passed that threshold last year. We’re definitely past it now.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with winning ugly. Being able to do so is a necessary trait in teams that hope to contend for postseason position. I’m merely point out that we’ve reached a point where we can classify wins as “ugly” and not just as “hey BG finally won a game.”

Neither game this weekend would be categorized as one of the Falcons best performances. Friday wasn’t bad. Other than the first period it was actually a pretty good game by BG. But Saturday had a vibe of BG just trying to hang on. Hang on it did and it was another four point weekend for the Falcons. That’s the third one for BG in four WCHA series this year. That matches last year’s full season total. Not a bad improvement, eh?

Goalies: Well it appears that head coach Chris Bergeron is either at the point, or at least getting close to firmly defining the team’s top two goalies.

Sophomore goalie Tomas Sholl has now been on the bench for seven straight games, dating back to Oct. 31 against Minnesota State. In that game, he allowed five goals on 34 shots. That benching has sort of been facilitated by the play of both Tommy Burke and Chris Nell.

Burke has started five of those seven games, including a stretch of four straight games from Nov. 1 to Nov. 14. He’s given up nine goals in those five games.

Nell, on the other hand, hasn’t been as relied on, but man has he been sharp. He stopped 27 of 29 shots in a 3-2 win against Ohio State, and stopped 35 of 37 Saturday night. He’s won all four of his starts and has a 2.00 goals-against average and a .933 save percent this year.

The way the Falcons’ schedule is set up during the holidays kind of make things difficult in regards to goaltending. The team is off this weekend, before traveling to Northern Michigan next weekend for a two-games series. After that, they’re off for three weekends before kicking in the second half of the schedule. If you need help doing the math, that means BG only plays two games in the next 40 or so days.

So one goalie is going to have a … significant amount of time off between starts. I mean, no matter who plays at Northern, they’re all going to have a considerable amount of time off. But if you sit one of Burke or Nell, that’s going to be five weeks between starts. If you sit Sholl, that’s a full two months off between games.

That leads to another question. The way BG is playing right now and what could potentially be at stake this season, every game is important and you need to give yourself the best chance to win every night. With the way they’re playing right now, Burke and Nell give you the best chance to win.

Does that mean Sholl is on the bench until someone falters? And how long does it take until that happens, if it ever does? Let’s theoretically look at things. Say Burke and Nell are the two who start at Northern (not an implausible scenario) and say they both play like they have been. Well obviously you’re going to go into the second half with those two as your guys. Does Sholl then just become a victim of the numbers game?

This is all so fascinating. It’s like the Northern game is the episode leading into the mid-season break for TV shows and we’re about to get a killer cliffhanger. Don’t know what’s going to happen but as has been the case all year, it’s going to be fun to watch.

Confidence: Gordo touched on this in his notebooks this weekend, but defenseman Mike Sullivan is playing with confidence right now and when he’s able to do that he’s a pretty good player.

He’s like Alex Goligoski in that sense. If you’re not a Stars fan you probably won’t get it but it’s an apt comparison. When Goligoski plays with confidence he’s a really good all-around defenseman. His problem has been he’s often his own worst enemy. He’ll make a mistake, then get down on himself, which leads to another mistake and then it snowballs. By his own admission, Sullivan has been kind of the same way.

A couple years ago when he was pair with Bobby Shea as a sophomore, Sullivan had a really strong first 25-28 games. As a sophomore at the time, he looked like he was ascending into the role of go-to offensive defenseman. I wrote a big ol’ article on him and Shea for The BG News and after that his play pretty much stopped being good. That led to a pretty forgettable year offensively last year and kind of had him as an afterthought on defense coming into this year, especially with the way Nolan Valleau exploded out of the gate the first four games.

Well, Sullivan is playing with confidence again and it’s showing in his point totals. Pair with another number 28 (Sean Walker), the senior had a goal and an assists in Friday’s win and he now has two goals and five assists in 14 games. He shot the puck a lot this weekend. He probably had a good seven or eight shot attempts Friday, even though he was only credited with two on goal. It  seems like when he’s playing well he’s shooting the puck more.

Kind of on that same node, it seems like the whole defensive unit is playing with more confidence of late. Valleau finally got back on the score sheet with an assist Saturday. Mark Friedman had an assist too, and Walker had a goal and an assist, although that goal was a rather fortuitous three quarter ice empty netter. But you know the saying. Sometimes it only takes one.

Strange: Just wanted to take a quick moment to point out a rather odd play from Saturday. As you may remember, Adam Berkle was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for contact to the head. It wasn’t necessarily a vicious hit, but when you’re 6-foot-2 and are hitting a guy who is 5-foot-7, it happens sometimes. Definitely a warranted penalty.

No, what was weird about the call was play continued. While BG had the puck. Play didn’t stop until Bemidji goalie Andrew Walsh covered the puck, and that was after the Falcons had a couple really quality scoring chances. It was at that point that the officials conferred and sent Berkle off.

That led to some education and some questions. I didn’t know that was a thing, conferring after the fact and then basically retroactively handing out a penalty. But I guess in instances like this you can. But that led to a question Drew brought up in the press box: what if BG had scored in that time? Does the goal still count, or do you take it off because play theoretically should have been stopped? Or do you just ignore the penalty altogether? I legitimately don’t know and I would like to know just in case that ever happens so I can drop a knowledge bomb on someone. Seriously. If you’re reading this and you know the answer to that question, tell me.

Bucci: This isn’t really much of an observation, but a acknowledgement of some sorts. Or something like that. You may know John Buccigross of ESPN is a big college hockey guy and does his own rankings and whatnot. Well he has BG ranked No. 10 this week.

Yes, you all know my crusade against rankings. And his rankings are less meaningful than the USCHO polls, if that’s even possible. But you know what, that’s not the point. It’s cool to see the Falcons getting some national recognition for what has been a really good start to the season. Think I saw on Twitter it’s the team’s best start since 1995-96. So that’s pretty cool. I was four then and didn’t know what a Bowling Green was, so I don’t remember that. But I bet it was a pretty rad time.

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.

  • Rick Crow

    The game wasn’t stopped for Berkle’s penalty because one of the linesmen made the call. A linesman cannot stop the game for a penalty but once the game is stopped he can confer with the refs and tell them what he saw. it’s then the ref’s decision whether or not to act on it. This was all discussed in the post game interview with Coach Bergeron.

    • Ryan Satkowiak

      Recall him answering that and saying something along those lines but couldn’t remember exactly what he said. Thanks. Still more so curious of the outcome if a goal had been scored though. Might have to make some calls to my USA Hockey pals and see if I can dig up an answer.

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