Stephen Baylis has been one of Bowling Green’s most reliable players this season.
But his consistent play offensively and defensively has been forgotten this week.
Instead, the sophomore left wing has earned attention for his glass-breaking hit against the University of Alaska Saturday night.
Baylis’ hard shoulder-to-shoulder check on Alaska’s Nikolas Koberstein shattered the glass behind the net at the north end of the Slater Family Ice Arena. The glass shattered on contact.
Video quickly appeared on social media and has remained popular there all week.
“I’ve heard my teammates talking about it, and my family and friends are sending me links and talking about it,” Baylis said.
But Baylis has enjoyed a low-key week since he doesn’t have an account on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“I’m off the grid,” Baylis said with a laugh.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Koberstein was skating with the puck behind the net when he was hit by Baylis (6-1, 201). Koberstein was shaken up, but eventually made it to the Nanooks’ bench.
Koberstein flew home without problems on the team’s flight to Alaska Sunday.
The game was delayed for 23 minutes with 1:32 remaining and the score tied 1-1. Brett D’Andrea eventually scored 3:57 into overtime to give BG a 2-1 win.
“I saw an opportunity to finish a check on the forecheck,” Baylis said. “He was coming around the net with his head down. He was just releasing the puck and was off-balance a bit. I took advantage of that and hit him as hard as I could.
“I knew it was clean, and I wasn’t worried about someone coming in and grabbing me. I felt OK with the hit. I didn’t think I hit him in the head.”
Physical play is only part of Baylis’ game. He’s one of BG’s top offensive players, even though he has just two goals and nine assists in 29 games. He’s had more than enough quality scoring chances to easily have at least 10 goals. Baylis’ 53 shots on goal are fifth among BG’s forwards.
Baylis also has been good defensively with an on-ice rating of +5. He’s been used on the penalty-killing unit during the second half of the season.
He’s hoping the points will start to come this weekend when the Falcons visit Ferris State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series. BG is 13-14-2 overall and third in the WCHA with an 11-10-1-1 record.
“I’m still getting chances, and that’s important,” said Baylis, who had nine goals and 13 assists in 35 games as a freshman. “If you’re not getting chances, you worry.”
Baylis is skating on a line with D’Andrea, a junior center, and freshman right wing Frederic Letourneau. The three have a good mix of skills, size and speed. They create offense off the rush and the cycle.
“We mesh well together,” Baylis said.
Baylis’ shooting and passing skills were expected to make him one of BG’s top scorers this season after a solid first season. He had a point in six of BG’s final nine games last season, totaling five goals and nine assists in that span.
“My game is a question mark right now,” Baylis said. “After last year, I was expected to perform the same way and maybe even better. By the stat sheet, that’s not happening. I don’t think my game is terrible, but I’m not producing the points expected of me.
Baylis has remained in the lineup because he’s played well in all three zones.
“His numbers say it’s been an indifferent year in terms of goals and assists, but he’s been way more consistent than that,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He’s been as consistent a player as we’ve had (this season), just in terms of his play.
“There’s layers to his game,” Bergeron added. “He’s very competitive. He can hit and throw his body around and be physical, but there’s puck skills and hockey plays you can’t teach people. It hasn’t resulted in points. He’s a sophomore. He’s still figuring this thing out. The fact he’s been consistent with his daily approach and his play, the points will follow.”
Although Baylis came to BG as an offensive threat, he was a solid two-way player in his four seasons with the Carleton Place Canadians in Central Canadian (Junior) Hockey League. He totaled 107 goals, 148 assists and 408 penalty minutes in 277 games with the Canadians.
During his final two seasons with the Canadians, he had 82 goals and 110 assists in 156 games. He was the CCHL most valuable player and a first-team all-star during the 2014-15 season.
“I’ve always been a 200-foot player,” said Baylis, a team captain his last two seasons with Carleton Place. “I’m not specifically an offensive player. I’m not specifically a defensive player. I’m just well-rounded. I knew coming to BG, I wouldn’t be the goal-scorer I was in juniors. I was a 200-foot player in junior. I knew I wouldn’t get as many chances because my play in juniors was more loose defensively. College hockey is much tighter defensively. It’s harder to get chances. I really didn’t expect to blow the place out of the water offensively.
“When you’re not scoring, people wonder where his head’s at, what’s going on, but I’m not sulking,” Baylis added. “Points have never motivated me. I just like to win. If we’re not winning, then I’m upset. We’ve been winning a lot more lately. If we’re not winning, I’m going to be upset. We’ve been playing a lot better lately, and I’m still not producing, and I’m feeling great about my game.”
The Falcons decided to use Baylis on the penalty-killing unit to get one of their best players more ice time. He already was playing his regular shift, while seeing ice time on the power play and when the teams are 4-on-4.
“I like killing penalties,” Baylis said. “Your mindset changes because you know they have five (players on the ice) and you have four, and you have to bear down harder. You step it up a notch and go even harder. I find another gear on the penalty-kill.”
Bayless killed penalties early in his junior career until he was moved to the power-play unit. He expressed an interest to kill penalties when he came to BG.
“You want your top players on the ice more,” Bergeron said. “He’s responsible that way and takes it very seriously, and wants to be held responsible. The bottom line that I was even listening is because he’s one of our better forwards, and I want him on the ice more. (Killing penalties) was an opportunity to do that.”
Now that he’s killing penalties, the Falcons are making sure he’s capable of handling the extra ice time and his play doesn’t suffer.
Being responsible defensively enables Baylis to the on the ice at all times, especially late in games, whether the Falcons are ahead by a goal or protecting one-goal lead.
“I love that,” Baylis said. “I like being the guy you look to in the last minute, minute and a half when you need a goal or to shut them down.”
Senior Matt Pohlkamp, and juniors Mitch McLain and Tyler Spezia are the BG’s best defensive forwards, but players like Baylis, D’Andrea and Letourneau are part of the next wave forwards of who can be trusted in late-game situations.
“He can play in all of those situations,” Bergeron said. “He’s responsible in his own zone. He knows how to defend. It’s huge. We want our best players on the ice more and part of that means you’re going to have to play defense more.
“It’s great from a coaching perspective. It’s something we can use those guys as an example that we’re not to going to sacrifice one part of our game for another. The whole 200-foot game matters. When you’re top guys are guying into that, it’s a good thing.”
Baylis also is improving academically. He had a 3.18 grade-point average during the fall semester after having a 2.0 GPA as a freshman. He’s majoring in individual studies, with an emphasis in global communications.
“The big difference is having classes with teammates,” Baylis said. “It’s a lot harder when you’re by yourself in class. Last year, I only had one class with a teammate. It’s hard to get motivated to grind the homework out. Now, I have two, three guys with me, and it’s easier to sit down and get the work done and help each other.”
Baylis, who turns 23 in August, returned to the classroom as a freshman after not being in school for a few years. He finished his junior hockey career after graduating from high school.
“That was new for me,” Baylis said of going back to school. “Since I was out of school, I had to adapt to the school system again, sitting in class, paying attention, taking notes.”