Bowling Green junior Lukas Craggs, who was recently named the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA) National Player of the Month for December, visited with FloHockey’s Tim Rappleye before the Falcons’ big series with Michigan Tech.
BGSU is currently in second place in the WCHA and ranks #12 in the Pairwise rankings, the ultimate criteria for making the NCAA tournament.
FloHockey: Lukas, Congratulations on being named National Player of the Month. A year ago at this time you were MVP at the Great Lakes Invitational. Is this a good time of year for you?
Craggs: Yeah, it’s exciting to play this time of year, things are heating up with the playoff race, and our team’s looking good.
FloHockey: College hockey TV analyst Dave Starman loves the way you create turnovers. Even though you have a whole bunch of goals, sometimes your game is more “will over skill.” Can you please describe your game for those who haven’t seen you play?
Craggs: I’m a simple player, who likes to play very physical, fast, and I like to shoot the puck. With that, I create turnovers from skating and putting pressure on the D, and I keep it simple, as much as I can.
FloHockey: Does Coach Bergeron encourage that? Does he think you lead by example?
Craggs: I think he thinks I lead by example. That’s what we’re told to do, use our speed to our advantage, get on the D, create turnovers, which leads to offensive play, and hopefully, goals.
FloHockey: For an honest lunch-pail player, you are among the national leaders with 13 goals. How come you’re finding the back of the net this year?
Craggs: My teammates. The coaches have paired me up with great linemates the whole year, and they’re the ones giving me the puck. I’m not doing all the work, they’re dishing me the puck, and luckily my shots are going in.
FloHockey: Does anyone tease you in the locker room? It looks like you have a great pitching record, 13 goals and 4 assists. Does anyone every call you Cy Young? Have you ever heard that expression in the locker room?
Craggs: I don’t think anyone’s said that, but definitely people tease me a little bit.
FloHockey: That’s all right, you guys are winning. I just read an article in College Hockey News, saying it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to make the NCAAs. Are you comfortable with that?
Craggs: We’re far from comfortable. We’ve got a lot of work to put in for the rest of the season if we want that to come true. We’re not just going to rely on anything, we want it all.
FloHockey: Your record against ranked opponents has been outstanding this year. You go into the break, you had a couple of goals to help sweep Minnesota State. Then you’ve got the whole break to think about the Pairwise Rankings. Did that come up in your mind at all?
Craggs: Yeah, there was definitely a lot of talk and seeing stuff on social media sites. I’m sure everyone read it on our team. Hopefully we can put that aside and go back to work, and continue to be hot the rest of the year.
FloHockey: There’s a very fine line in terms of mindset from trying to avoid driving into a ditch, or going after it. You have Michigan Tech coming up. Are you worried about them being an obstacle? Or is this an opportunity for you guys?
Craggs: They’re a good team, they’re third place in our conference and they always play us hard. I would say what we’ve done this past year, we have a target on our back, and teams are going to be coming for us. So every game we have to be our best, we can’t take a night off. People will give us their best game.
FloHockey: Serious observers of Falcon hockey say you have a tendency to play on the edge. I watched you get misconducts that may or may not have been deserved, you play hard. Talk about playing on the edge, and how important it is for you to be on the good side of that edge.
Craggs: Playing on the edge, it’s easier said than done. I continue to have to work on it each week. I got two five-minute majors, or misconducts, early in the year. I had to tone it back a little bit. I think because of that it helped my overall game play, it’s helping our team win.
FloHockey: What kind of lesson have you taken away from the last two years where you came oh-so-close to making the NCAAs? Does that make you hungrier?
Craggs: It does. It keeps you p*ssed off a little bit, knowing how close we were, and what we could have done. But now we have to do what we can, can’t rely on anybody else but ourselves to make it happen.
FloHockey: It sure seems like you’ve taken care of business with wins over Western Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota State. Does that give you some confidence?
Craggs: It does, and it shows what our team is capable of, and that’s what we’ve got to bring each and every game if we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
FloHockey: I’m looking at your record, 10 games over .500 despite a November injury bug. Are you proud of that record?
Craggs: Yeah, I would say right now we’re pretty happy, but we’re not satisfied yet.
FloHockey: You’re on the verge of an historic season, if you consider Bowling Green getting to the NCAAs. How cool is it that you’re able to share such a special season with your younger brother Sam?
Craggs: It’s pretty cool. Not many people get to experience something like this with their brother. I think it’s most exciting for my family, and my parents especially.
FloHockey: Do they make some of these road trips?
Craggs: They make as many road trips as they can. Coming from Chicago, it’s not too far away.
FloHockey: I don’t want to get into too big a discussion on this, but Chicago, and Illinois in general, is becoming a great producer of hockey players. Can you talk about the Chicago experience, and do you agree that it’s a special place to play?
Craggs: I would, and it’s a hockey hotbed now. If you look at college hockey right now, there’s a lot of kids from my area. Not just the quality players that we have, the coaches we have back home, developing all these players.
FloHockey: Why did you end up at Bowling Green, and not a Big Ten school?
Craggs: Barry Schutte gave me a phone call, and I came on my visit. I loved everything about the school, and the hockey part was a no-brainer. I like the coaches’ message, it got me intrigued, and I’m all about it.
FloHockey: Good luck knocking down the door this year, and we’ll be watching you down the road.
Craggs: Thank you very much.
Author Tim Rappleye just released his latest book: Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review (Mission Point Press, 2018). He can be reached @TeeRaps.