With each passing series, BGSU hockey seems to find a new obstacle. Over the past ten games, the Falcons have won just one game while finding new ways to give up third period leads and struggle on the backcheck. Now, with both Alaska programs on the docket, injuries are forcing them to experiment in lineup construction.
Connor Ford and Adam Conquest were unable to make the trip to Bemidji State due to injury, leaving the team with a minimal twelve eligible forwards. Head coach Ty Eigner’s solution was to play Garrett Daly, usually a defenseman, at forward.
“It was a combination (of injuries and trying to mix things up),” Eigner said. “Garrett is a kid that’s worked really hard, and his strengths are he can really skate and he’s very, very strong.
Eigner said while looking at the lineup in terms of eligible forwards, Daly seemed like he would do a good job — and the freshman delivered.
Then, on Saturday, Max Johnson would crumble to the ice holding his right leg in the opening period. Eigner confirmed on Tuesday he will miss time due to an ankle sprain. Given Daly’s play at the forward position, and the need to find answers quickly this late in the year, it could be a spot he finds himself in again.
“He played well, so I think we’re going to see him in the lineup this weekend. Whether it’s at forward or at defense we haven’t determined yet, but he did a really good job up front,” Eigner said.
Eigner and the Falcons have been attempting to creatively right the ship in many ways this past month; it hasn’t just been musical chairs when finalizing the lineup. Adjustments to the transition game have been worked on and the team continues to work on their overall skill.
One thing the entire squad knows they need to keep consistent is the effort level — a term that Eigner has addressed many times in postgame interviews throughout the month of January. It has been questioned at times, even early in the year against Lake Superior State, and it has been praised other times.
“We’re looking at a lot of different things; whether it be system things, whether it be personnel things. For the first time all year, we’ve got more than one person out,” he said. “How did we get to the 13 wins? We worked really hard, we played within our systems, we tried to do the right things more often than not and the results were good, so our plan is to continue to focus on the things we can control. Tuesday we had a good practice. A lot of teaching, a lot of systems-type stuff and we did get a lot out of it.”
In a more glaring absence, BGSU has locked out of strength scoring for the most part. The team ranks second in the country in power play goals (32), but against a limited system in Bemidji, the Falcons struggled to draw penalties. This left time for the team to assess it’s five-on-five scoring, which has only contributed to 11 of the Falcons 24 goals over the past eleven games.
“I had a conversation with one of the players yesterday, and we talked about how many five-on-five goals we’ve had in our last ten games and it’s not a lot,” Eigner said. “Hopefully this weekend we can play a certain way and that way will allow us to draw penalties, but five-on-five we’ve got to do a better job. When you’re struggling and the results aren’t going your way, your confidence isn’t real high individually and as a team, so you fight it a little bit. You grip your stick a little tighter. So we’ve got to relax and start over in February and do the best job we can with the opportunity that’s in front of us.”
In this trying time, the message that is being broadcasted in the locker room is similar to the message most teams have heard. The club can thank a former UCLA basketball coach for its current modus operandi.
“I read a quote by John Wooden today, ‘you can’t look back.’ You can learn from it and try to improve on it, but you can’t look back,” Eigner said. “Looking back does you no good. So that’s what we’re trying to do. The month of January is over and it’s now February, so we’re trying to do the best job we can in the month of February and that’s all we can control.”
The Falcons host the Seawolves of Anchorage at Slater Family Ice Arena Feb. 7 and 8, then travel into the wild to face off against the Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks Feb. 14 and 15.