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.
One-upmanship: we all know this game (even though I think I just made up a word. Call Miriam-Webster!). We’ve all done it at some point in our lives, and we all have that one guy in the group who does it all the time.
You’re sitting at the Sunday afternoon recovery lunch with your buddies, telling the story of how you slammed 30 beers and then beat the biggest guy in the bar at an arm wrestling match the night before. Then the one guy at the end of the table pipes in with, “yeah well one time I slammed 35 beers and then ran a half marathon.” No one likes a one-upper.
That was BG against Ohio State last night; Ohio State was that one-upper. Heading into the third period trailing 2-1, both times BG tied the game in the third, the Buckeyes answered almost immediately. OK, almost immediately is a little bit of a stretch on OSU’s second goal of the third period, but you get the point.
I don’t remember the exact phrase, because I haven’t heard it in like seven years. I don’t even remember where I heard it the first time. I might not even have heard it and could just be imagining it. But at some point in my life, I heard from someone who may or may not have been a hockey coach that after an opposing team scores, you have a few minutes (I use ambiguity because I don’t remember the exact time) to either kill their momentum or let them run you over.
Well, regardless of who said that or if it’s even a hockey adage at all, the Buckeyes played that to a tee last night. They prevented the Falcons for building up any momentum in the third period, which is what ultimately led to a victory.
Of course, a big assist here goes to the Falcon defense. Let’s get into it.
Defense: Might as well start here. I should start by pointing out when I say, “defense,” I do not mean “goaltending.” I mean the five guys on the ice who left Tomas Sholl out to dry.
Multiple times last night, BG gave up 2-on-1 chances to OSU. After goals in the third period, I don’t want to say BG took its foot off the gas, but it almost seemed like the Falcons got too comfortable, like they didn’t expect the Buckeyes to pounce. It’s like a cobra. You’re watching it, keeping tabs on it, and the second you let your guard down it strikes. Not that I’ve ever gone mono-y-mono with a cobra before, but I’ve watch enough Animal Planet to infer.
Check out Kevin Gordon’s Sentinel-Tribune recap for all of coach Chris Bergeron’s quotes, but there was one that stood out to me that sort of epitomizes this mentality.
“Ultimately, we were way, way, way too loose without the puck,” Bergeron said.
That’s something we’ve heard before with the Falcons, but in past years I think it dealt more with guys trying to do too much and making mistakes. Now it just feels like the Falcons were being careless.
I mean, think about it. In BG’s first five games, it was probably the better team in four of them. Even last night, BG dominated the first half of the first period. This is a team that isn’t used to having this kind of success — even if it’s in an incredibly small sample size. It’s pretty easy, once you get on a roll and start feeling good about yourself, to make careless mistakes because you just expect to win.
Don’t get me wrong, too much confidence is a good problem to have. Well, at least compared to having not enough confidence. But there’s a fine like between being confident and being cocky.
Hopefully this game serves as a stern wake-up call to BG. No matter how good you are or perceive yourself to be, you aren’t going to win games if you don’t execute and play the way you need to.
Penalties: It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about this. In the three games since the second game at Union, BG has been pretty OK at staying out of the box.
BG uhhh … did not do that last night.
Seven penalties, five times short handed are both too many for one game. BG put Ohio State on the power play three times in the second period, including once for about four minutes thanks to a Sean Walker contact to the head major, which was cancelled out with about a minute left due to a Ryan Dzingel elbowing penalty.
Walker was also given a DQ, meaning he will be out for Friday’s game against Anchorage. Being one of the team’s better defensemen, that’s never good.
Anyway, BG held strong on the PK, not allowing the Buckeyes to score. That’s not the point here. The point here is that, while occasionally killing a penalty can lead to a huge momentum boost (see: Western Michigan 5-on-3. January 2013), putting your opponent on the power play incrementally throughout the period is not a good strategy.
Why, you ask? I’m sure you know the answer to that, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When you’re shorthanded, you generally aren’t getting shots. No, it’s usually the other team that is peppering your goalie, which is what happened in the second period. The Buckeyes out-shot BG 10-5 in the period and took the lead on an even-strength tally.
When you’re constantly backed up on defense, that gets you on your heels. You have to pretty much reset, which means it takes some time to get your mojo back. BG did that in the third period last night, but we already touched on that. Maybe if BG wasn’t playing a man down for almost 40 percent of the second period it would’ve been a different outcome.
Murphiamson: I really don’t know how to make that any better. Maybe it’s because I’m not an US Weekly gossip writer. Maybe it’s because it’s 9:30 in the morning and the creative centers of my brain are still asleep. But we need a creative, “Brangelina” nickname here. CONTEST!
Now that you’re sufficiently sick to your stomach, let’s get back to hockey! Bryce Williamson and Ben Murphy continue to show that they are good at the sport. Skating on a line centered by Mark Cooper, each had a goal last night, while Williamson added an assist. I’m actually not sure what happened here, because last I saw Williamson’s goal was credited to Murphy, with Williamson getting the assist. I don’t know.
These two now co-lead the team with five goals. Williamson has four assists, while Murphy has only one. Sad day.
It’s a pretty impressive start to the season for those two. Murphy is a goal away from tying the total he had as a freshman last season, in like 100 fewer games (it’s really only 34). He’s almost halfway to the 13 points he posted.
Williamson, on the other hand, isn’t quite halfway to the 12 goals, but is on the seven assists (both career-highs) he had last year. BUT, he has nine points in six games, which, if my math is correct, puts him on a pace to have the first 50-point season for a BG player since Alex Foster posted 51 in the 2005-06 season.
Whether he maintains that pace is another question entirely. But he’s given no indication (so far) that he isn’t capable of doing so. He’s a former 100-point player in juniors, so he has the skill. He’s posted points in five of BG’s six games, so it’s not like he had a 6-point game and has otherwise been shut down; he’s been very consistent.
And, perhaps most importantly, it’s not like BG is going to be facing a Hockey East or NCHC meat grinder schedule this year. While that means pro teams that look at him following the season may (an probably will) be justly skeptical of his numbers (not saying he doesn’t get a pro deal, but that’s a story for another day), it also means BG should continue to score at a 3-plus goals per game rate, and right now Williamson is right at the middle of that.
That’ll be fun to watch as the season goes along. Throw in Dan DeSalvo’s seven points in six games and right now BG has three players producing at a point-per-game pace. I don’t even know the last time that happened. I doubt that happens this year, but it’s nice to see BG with competent offensive production for the first time since the Ice Age.
Sholl: Not really going to touch on his performance too much, because it sounds like his defense failed him, but I couldn’t watch the game so I don’t know to watch effect that was.
But it was nice to see him get the Tuesday night start over Tommy Burke. Burke got the first Tuesday night start against the Buckeyes, and I don’t know why but I kind of just assumed he’d get the nod last night.
But it shows that Bergeron is fully behind this 50-50 goaltending split, not just with the weekends but with all the games. The only weeknight single game BG has the rest of the season in a February exhibition game against the U.S. U-18 team, so we won’t have to deal with this any more. Expect to see Burke Friday and Sholl Saturday for the foreseeable future.
Anchorage: Finally, we get our, “Welcome to the WCHA” series, against a team that was picked to finish ninth in the conference. That’s an OK place to start.
The Seawolves have been pretty good so far this year, with a 3-1 record that includes wins against defending national runner-up Quinnipiac, an Air Force team that is pretty good, and a Denver team that is also pretty good.
Now, we can debate whether this means Anchorage is actually good, or if these results happened because they were all part of preseason tournaments played in Alaska. Fair question.
I don’t have any actual data to back this up, but I think I can safely say that teams don’t like playing in Alaska, particularly if it’s in a preseason tournament that generally means nothing. If you aren’t too familiar with college hockey, think of these as like the preseason Maui Invitational in college basketball. It’s good for the locals and stuff, but the games are really just ways for the teams to get their stuff together.
These games are especially less fun than the Maui Invitational because Alaska is cold and dreary, even in October. For a team like Quinnipiac, you’re traveling like 10 hours just to get there, to a time zone that is four hours behind the one in which your school is located. That means the 8:07 p.m. start for them felt more like 12:07 a.m. Have you ever played hockey at 12:07 a.m.? It’s fun, if you are just kind of screwing around and not playing at full speed or getting hit. Since none of that was true for this game, I’m going to assume that it wasn’t a ton of fun.
Anyway, Anchorage has traditionally done well in these preseason tourneys. Last year they went 2-1-1. Then they didn’t win a game outside the state of Alaska until February. The year before that, they went 3-0-1 in these tourney games. Didn’t win a game outside of Alaska until Nov. 25.
Am I saying BG sweeps this series? Well, while I expect that to happen, if the Falcons play as loose and carefree as they did last night, that is not going to happen.
Having the home crowd behind them should be a welcome boost. Also, with the schedule BG has coming up after this weekend (at Mankato, at Ferris, Mankato, at Lake) it could be the Falcons only chance in November to record a weekend sweep. I very seriously doubt that tidbit will be on their minds when they take the ice, but I would think they know that they need to get conference wins against teams they should be getting conference wins against.