Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
Well, today is the last chance for the Chargers to earn some points before the WCHA postseason kicks off for them Friday night on the road at Lake Superior State. They did some good things yesterday in defending against an always formidable Bemidji State side, losing 2-0. Despite the good from last night, the Chargers could not solve Zach Driscoll, and only made him face 16 shots on the evening. Here are three things to watch to get an idea of how this game could go for the Chargers. Keep in mind, while the result of game does not change the first round opponent for either team next weekend, it could be the difference for the Beavers in plaiing in the NCAA Tournament or not. They are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and a loss to the Chargers would hurt them in the “eye test” portion of what the Selection committee is looking at 14 days from today when the NCAA Tournament field is unveiled. The last regular season, conference game for the Chargers against Bemidji State presents Lance West’s team with an opportunity to keep their rivals out of the NCAA Tournament.
Here are three things to watch from the Chargers in the finale today
Shot attempt generation
The Chargers, in the first and second period yesterday, had more offenive zone time than they have earned in ther past few games. They did not convert any of those chances into goals. To compound that, on the night, the team only had 29 shot attempts. Of those, only one of those shot attempts came on the power play, by Peyton Francis. It was blocked. This team has improved in their systems, and cohesion from last year to this year, and the next consistent harbinger of that improvement is in how they can convert on their offensive zone time. In addition, this team conceded 69 shot attempts on the night. While they blocked 22 of those looks, it goes to the efficiency of getting the system. When you have to block that many shots, consistently, eventually your team will tire out and be more susceptible to taking penalties and giving up goals on long shifts. Both Bemidji State goals came on long shifts and off a series of plays that made David Fessenden’s job tough.
If we had to put together a world cloud of what any of the coaches have said to us this year, about this team, it is development. Last night saw Peyton Francis in the top six, and he played well on the wing there, and on the power play. His speed, combined with the shot and speed of Tyrone Bronte and Bauer Neudecker on the power play was the most high-end speed line that the Chargers had last night. Francis has the speed and skill to earn a top six role on this team, and his work yesterday was nice to see to give the Chargers another option to play with Neudecker and Bronte full time next year.
On the back end, despite taking a delayed penalty that lead to an extra attacker goal, Ayodele Adeniye played well for the Chargers, not with his normal partner Brian Scoville, but with Dayne Finnson. The offensive upside of Finnson, combined with the defensive skill of Adeniye had a good night for the Chargers. Over this year, Adeniye has gotten better at stepping up into the play and generating some looks. On the defensive side, his ability to clear attackers in front of the goal has been a constant for the Chargers. Like Adeniye, Scoville had a decent night playing with Lucas Bahn except for taking two minor slashing penalties back to back in the first period. His defense and ability to stay at home gives Lucas more space to create the offense he is good at generating.
When Bemidji State came out in the third period, they played the best of their three in the final stanza. They earned their only goal in that period on a delayed penalty. The issue for the Chargers in that period was shot generation. They only had four shots on net, compared to 12 from the Beavers. Despite not getting burned for many goals in a period, as a few teams have done to this group, their ability to generate offense or suppress the other team’s is another area this staff is working on constantly, answering back when your opponent does really well. They have a chance to hurt the tournament chances of their rival, get some momentum going into the postseason, and show how far they have come as a group one more time before the postseason starts in five days. The puck drops at 2:07 PM.
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