I figured I’d open this with a joke because well, what are you gonna do to keep yourself entertained the next three weeks without BG hockey?
(Editor’s Note: If you actually don’t have anything to keep yourself entertained in the next three weeks, I apologize.)
As I will touch on in my article in the Sentinel tomorrow, last year BG headed into its (brief) holiday break on a pretty bad stretch of play, so the time off was kind of good for everyone to get their bearings back and maybe get the bad memories out of their head. Well, this year, the Falcons are rocking it right now and are ranked and it’s fun to watch them play and all that fun stuff and now the break comes. That was a run-on sentence. Oh well.
As I also touch on in tomorrow’s Sentinel article, this is new ground for this team. New ground as in, where they stand right now, the NCAA Tournament is a real possibility.
This kind of falls under the “let’s not get ahead of ourselves” category, but if the Falcons maintain a similar pace through the course of the second half, there’s a better than decent chance they qualify for the tournament, regardless of what they do in the WCHA playoffs.
Once again, there’s still 20 games to play and if watching this team for the past five years has taught me anything, it’s to never be too sure. So yeah, let’s take this information with a grain of salt. Because one bad stretch of games and that’s gone. But the way the Falcons have played this year, I don’t have any problem giving them the benefit of the doubt.
So how does that second half set up? We’ll it’s brutal in the sense that it features three long road trips, a flight to Alaska, and games played on at least 11 straight weekends. It’s not that bad in the sense that the Falcons don’t play any back-to-back road weekends, and the slate features only two weekends sets against ranked opponents. I’ll let you judge how you think that balances out.
On that same note, the Falcons play every team in the WCHA that currently has six points or fewer in the league standings. Which now that I think about it is half the league, so I don’t know why I brought that up.
BG is set nicely in the standings too, and six points ahead of fourth-place Northern, and three behind Minnesota State and Michigan Tech for first, with the Falcons having two games in hand. BG is sitting in a pretty good place right now, as long as it continues to take care of business. Let’s get into it.
1. Minnesota State: (LW: 1): Alaska actually did BG a pretty big favor this weekend by stealing a game from the Mavericks in overtime. In Mankato too! In the process the Nanooks brought Stephon Williams back to earth a little bit, scoring five times in that win. He rebounded OK Saturday, allowing only two goals, but it came on only 14 shots.
I’m not even going to bother talking about the Mavs’ offense anymore. They stat sheet looks like it’s out of a video game.
2. Michigan Tech (LW: 2): The Techies were off this weekend, and because of that don’t really have much of a holiday break. The Huskies play No. 9 Minnesota-Duluth this weekend, take next weekend off, then play Michigan and the winner of Michigan State/Ferris State in the Great Lakes Invitational. So it’ll be a nice chance for them to prove to the rest of the nation how good they are. Hope they don’t let us down!!!!
3. Bowling Green (LW: 3): Now that we talked all this good stuff about BG, let me darken the room a little bit. This goes out to everyone jumping on that “BG is No. 8 in Pairwise!” bandwagon. Like the college football selection committee rankings, Pairwise chances every week in different ways. That means a team could move down even if it wins, based on its schedule (you Ohio State fans should be quite aware of how that works). I say this because, if you take the view that BG’s second-half schedule is of rather poor quality (not an outlandish view to take) then that makes its margin for error rather thin.
In much simpler terms: even if BG keeps winning at this pace, there is a chance it starts to fall in Pairwise as other schools, namely those in Hockey East or the NCHC, begin to play brutal conference schedules. Pairwise, as you may or may not know, is basically the selection committee uses to select the NCAA Tournament field. That’s why I always get on my “rankings are pointless” high horse. For example, Boston University is No. 2 in the polls but No. 11 in Pairwise. As it gets to the meat of its schedule, you can bet they move up.
That’s why BG slowing down any could be troublesome for an at-large berth. Say it goes 11-6-3 in the second half, getting it to 22-9-5 for the year. A great record, no doubt. But when you compare that to other great records nationally, factoring in that, at least right now, the bottom five to six in the WCHA has been really not good, it could get dicey for BG. I don’t know, that’s just some food for thought for you to digest on. Maybe it ends up not even mattering. That all just popped into my head and I thought it would be fun to write (it was). So you get to read it!
4. Northern Michigan (LW: 4): I’m now 100 percent comfortable saying that, even at No. 4 in the WCHA, Northern is not a part of that top tier of teams in the league.
We discussed this a little yesterday but Mathias Dahlstrom is, in fact, human. BG diced him for 10 goals this weekend and all of the sudden Northern looks very average. Sure the Wildcats scored five on a pretty good defensive team Friday, but at this point that feels like more of an outlier. I’d probably lean towards this past weekend being more of an outlier for Dahlstrom too had he not been trending down in recent weeks.
After allowing six goals his first nine starts, he’s allowed 18 his last five. I said a few weeks ago that some correction was in order, but I didn’t think it would be that aggressive. In four of those five games, he’s posted GAA’s of 4.00 or worse and saver percents of .881 or worse. The one exception was against Anchorage. So he’s crashing hard. I wasn’t sure if Northern had enough offense to be able to sustain the normal crash I figured was coming. Definitely don’t think they have the offense to sustain a crash of this magnitude. If Dahlstrom can’t get it together, the Wildcats could be in trouble.
5. Alaska (LW: 6): Alaska gets a bump this week for what was probably the most impressive win of the season in the WCHA. Minnesota State’s only other losses have been to UNO (No. 12), Duluth (No. 9) and BG (No. 13).
My man crush on Tyler Morley continues to grow. He scored three times this weekend to get him up to 16 points in 14 games, which is the second best points per game ratio in the league. The Nanooks still struggle to defend well, but their offense is starting to come together and they will definitely be a dangerous playoff spoiler team down the stretch.
6. Bemidji State (LW: 5): Going to Anchorage and pulling out a pair of ties isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I had higher hopes for the Beavers.
I mean, I’m still not at the point I’d be worried about them, but that time is definitely starting to draw closer. They have a couple of good offensive players, but the Beavers’ goaltending is still wildly mediocre. Andrew Walsh and Michael Blitzer have a combined .882 save percent this year, which is not good. Bemidji is one of four teams in the league that have collective save percents under .900. Two of the others, Alaska and Lake, have been just as snakebitten as them this year. The other is Minnesota State, and that’s really only because Cole Huggins and his .780 save percent is still a thing that happened this year.
7. Alaska Anchorage (LW: 7): Not a bad performance by the Seawolves this weekend. For a team that’s pretty sub-par on the road, you’d probably like to get the most out of your home games. But hey, baby steps.
In other news, Brett Cameron, who had one goal on the season heading into this weekend, scored four times in Saturday’s tie. He now is second on the team with 11 points in 15 games. His five goals on the season now lead the team. Just to put in perspective, the four goals he scored Saturday are more than anyone else on the team has scored all season. Those four goals are more than just about half the team has points for the season. That’s not good.
8. Alabama Huntsville (LW: 8): We get no movement at the bottom of these rankings because Huntsville and Ferris were off and Lake….well we’ll get to that. The Chargers will be plenty busy the next two weeks, playing at Alaska this weekend and at Nebraska-Omaha next weekend.
9. Ferris State (LW: 9): It’s a little comical seeing Ferris this low in the rankings. Mostly comical because I picked them to win the WCHA. So when you get down to it I’m really laughing at how much of an idiot I am. You can feel free to laugh too.
10. Lake Superior (LW: 10): There was a brief moment Friday when I wasn’t sure if I was alive, dead or somewhere in between. Why? Well because midway through its game, Lake was leading No. 1 North Dakota 4-1. I did not know what to think.
Well as it turns out I was alive, because the No Names scored six unanswered goals in a period in a half to win 7-4 and restore balance to the galaxy. It’s definitely a rebuilding year for Lake.
Speaking of “I’m an idiot,” Alex Globke, one of my All-WCHA preseason picks, has four points in 17 games this year. I think I missed a little bit on that one, eh?