Throughout its struggles in the month of January, BGSU hockey did a lot of soul searching to find quick fixes. One of those remedies was playing freshman Garrett Daly, a defenseman, at forward. Thrown in because of injuries, Daly’s consistent play up front may turn into a long term change.
Daly, from Lakeville, Minnesota, found his way into the Bowling Green program because of his defensive acumen. Playing on the blueline for Lakeville North High School and in the BCHL for the Langley Rivermen, he was recruited by then assistant coach and defense specialist Ty Eigner.
Coming into the program this year, Daly was bound to fight for ice time. There are nine defensemen on the roster and only seven have a possibility of making it to the gameday lineup. So, when the coaching staff wanted to spark something in order to get out of a 1-6-1 rut, Daly was more than willing to help out in any way he could.
“The opportunity came with (Connor Ford and Adam Conquest) getting injured,” Daly said. “I was able to start playing in a couple of practices at forward the week of Bemidji State. I just tried to step in and see what the other guys were doing at forward.”
He played one game at the junior level at forward — and most of eighth and ninth grade — but he was still surprised when asked to move positions.
“I was kind of excited. I thought it would be fun since I didn’t know how long it would last, and I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m just trying to have fun and work hard out there,” he said.
Having fun and working hard is what the game is all about. It’s what led to Daly playing at forward against Bemidji State, and it is what made Eigner comfortable with his decision going forward when a similar scenario occurred. Max Johnson went down with an injury against the Beavers, and the spot Daly was filling in remained open.
“We felt like Garrett’s a kid that’s worked really hard, and his strengths are he can really skate and he’s very, very strong,” Eigner said. “So, as we looked at our lineup in terms of eligible forwards, we felt like at this time Garrett going into the weekend would give us a good chance to do what we were asking in that role and he did a really good job.”
Daly’s strengths, as Eigner points out, certainly help anyone at the forward position who is aiming to disrupt play deep in the offensive zone. Standing at 6’0” and 195 lbs, it opens up his game. Daly says there is a lot more room to skate in compared to the limited parameters of the defender.
The workload is much different, as well. A forward will not spend as much time on the ice per shift and there is more responsibility on the back end.
“(As a defenseman) in the offensive zone you just need to stay above the puck so they don’t get any odd-man rushes,” Daly said. “There’s less room for error.”
Perhaps feeling a little more relieved as a forward, Daly came into the next series against Alaska Anchorage with an open mind.
“I wasn’t thinking as much. I was a little more comfortable. Just settled in and tried to create more chances,” he said.
He didn’t receive an abundance of ice time, but he made his presence known. His first shift over the boards, Daly was able to shed two opposing players off with ease while starting a breakout towards the neutral zone. Then, in the first game of the series, Daly was bumped up a line after Evan Dougherty was pulled.
“He did a really good job when we bumped him up when we were just down to the three lines,” Eigner said. “His line was doing good things before that… he works hard, he’s strong and can skate and he does his best when he gets out there.”
Traveling to Fairbanks, Alaska, the Falcons are headed into their biggest series of the season. The first round of the WCHA postseason tournament is shaping up to feature the Nanooks facing off against the Falcons with home ice up for grabs. Eigner, hoping his whole team can emulate Daly’s skating, work ethic and tenacity, knows the gravity of this match-up.
“We’re in a position where we’re six points behind (Fairbanks),” he said. “If playing at home is something that we value and we want to do in the first round of the playoffs, then this is as big of a series we have. If we want to catch them, we can’t go up there and not have success.”
Johnson will not make the trip to Alaska, leaving another forward position open. Daly, as always, is ready to take that spot and run with it.