As the weather finally starts to show us glimpses of Spring, we close the calendar on the 2013-2014 Falcon hockey season. Overall the season should be considered a successful one. The team finished with an overall record of 18-15-6 including a 13-11-4 mark in their first season of WCHA play. The winning record was the Falcon’s first since the 1996-1997 campaign and is an indication of a program that, while hasn’t been as rapid as some would hope, is making strides towards rekindling the program of decades past.
Playing With the Lead
If we’re starting out with a negative for the season, it would probably have to be the Falcon’s inability to put teams away late as they played with a lead. At times it felt like the record kept skipping as weekend after weekend seemed to become a case of “not agains.” But, a monster performance by sophomore goaltender Tommy Burke against Northern Michigan on March 1 seemed to be a lightning rod to reverse the trend. With the Falcon’s gripping a 3-2 lead by their fingertips Burke stopped 15 shots to shut out the Wildcats in the third period and steal a win for Bowling Green. The team responded by turning in four more wins a row before eventually falling to eventual WCHA Tournament champions Minnesota State.
While officially this was Chris Bergeron’s first class he was only responsible for bringing in outgoing team co-captain Cam Wojtala. The 2014-2015 season will be the first indication of the coaching staff’s recruiting capabilities. If this year’s freshman class is any indication then next season should be a fruitful one.
Kevin Dufour and Matt Pohlkamp led freshman in scoring with an identical 9-7-16 scoring line. Defensively Sean Walker led the blue line freshman with a 2-11-13 mark. However, the fiery defenseman will need to evolve his physical game as he led the team in PIMS with 75.
Farewell to Thee
Eight seniors will be graduating from the program this year as will junior forward Ryan Carpenter. Despite only attending BG for three years Carpenter is on track to graduate this spring. The biggest losses (other than Carpenter) will be forwards Bryce Williamson and Cam Wojtala. While streaky, Williamson was one of the Falcon’s most skilled offensive players. Wojtala possessed arguably the best two-way skill on the team as evidenced by his end of the season assignment. The coaching staff enlisted Williamson along with fellow seniors Andrew Wallace and Brett Mohler as their “shut down” line and were largely successful.
There is still an outside chance that other players may leave the program. The cloud still hangs over Ralfs Freibergs from his supposed failed drug test with the IOC and World Anti-Doping Agency. The offensive defensemen reportedly failed a drug test during the Olympics but little has been reported since. If an extended suspension were to be handed out by the NCAA (which, at this point, hasn’t been indicated) than the Latvian may choose to find a professional league to hone his skills.
Also, it remains to be seen if Dajon Mingo will become academically eligible for the 2014-2015 season. Coach Bergeron alluded to “distractions” taking away from the season with a nod to Mingo. If the forward is unable to regain and retain his eligibility then his time at Bowling Green is most likely over.
“Make it Full”
By just about all accounts Chris Kingston, BGSU’s athletic director, has done well in his first year as the sports czar of BGSU. When Kingston was interviewed he had a chance to ask questions of certain coaches and his question of Coach Bergeron was “What can I do for you to make this program successful?” Kingston was taken aback by Bergeron’s answer: “Make it full.” Or, make the BGSU Ice Arena as packed as possible for every Falcon home game.
In this regard, Kingston didn’t earn a passing grade. Bowling Green had the third worst WCHA average home attendance in the WCHA (2022). The only programs which fell behind the Falcons were Lake Superior (1809) and the two-win Alabama-Huntsville Chargers (2008). Looking across the intramural fields at the Stroh Center you were constantly reminded about “Dollar Days,” giveaways, and general promotions for the University’s basketball teams. These kind of promotions were few and far between at the Ice Arena.
The athletic department can no longer ignore advertising the team and it’s attendance issues. No longer will Michigan, Miami, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Miami make yearly trips to the Arena. They’ve been replaced by Michigan Tech, Bemidji State, and the Alaskan schools. Good luck having fans find Bemidji on the map, let alone want to watch their hockey team. The Bleacher Creatures have done an admirable job considering a complete lack of funds to grow student attendance but more must be done. An actual investment in both financial and creative sense needs to be made to grow attendance at the rink so that crowds of 3500-4500 become a regularity instead of an exception.
The Falcons will celebrate their yearly banquet later this month as they honor the senior class and team individuals on the past season. As well, the team’s 2014-2015 schedule should be released and include home-and-home match ups with Miami and Ohio State as well as Robert Morris. The Robert Morris series will include an outdoor game at Fifth Third Field as part of the Toledo Walleye’s Winterfest event.
On a personal note, I’m sure I speak for the other staff members in thanking our fellow media types for an enjoyable season in the press box. Kevin Gordon (Sentinel-Tribune), Jake Dorow (BGSU SID), Kevin Meyers (BGRSO), Evan Pivnick (BGSUHockey.com/BGRSO), Geoff Roberts (BGRSO), and Adam Ramos (BGRSO) are just some of the people who make home games and road trips alike a joy to cover. We’d like to send a special note of good luck and congratulations to Kevin Meyers as he’ll be graduating in the spring. We hope that he’ll remember us for ticket requests one day when he’s in the NHL calling games.
A special recognition also needs to go to Ryan Sowers and the rest of the Bleacher Creatures. Their work this season shouldn’t go unheralded and we look forward to working together with them next season to help make the BGSU Ice Arena the most difficult venue in college hockey.
As well, we’d like to thank coaches Chris Bergeron, Barry Schutte, Ty Eigner, and director of hockey operations Shane Connelly who have been not only accommodating but supportive of our work all season. We’re very lucky to have this group that dedicate so much of themselves to growing the program.
Updates on BGSUHockey.com will, for obvious reasons, slow down a bit over the coming months. Will try to stay on top of any recruiting news which may arise and find the occasional feature to bring to our readers. The best way to stay current (other than checking us out everyday) is to follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Thank you for reading BGSUHockey.com for our first full season. We hope the coverage we provided to you this year lives up to the standards of the program and that you’ll join us next season.