The Falcons will feature their deepest roster of the Bergeron era and arguably the deepest of the last decade this season. The writers here at BGSUHockey.com took the opportunity to break down the ’14-’15 Falcons by position and gave our opinion on how we see things shaking out.
Ryan Satkowiak, Feature Writer
The Falcons must replace two of their most explosive weapons up front in Ryan Carpenter (16 points in 15 games) and Bryce Williamson (28 points). Having played most of last season without Carpenter, they already know how to play without him in the lineup, but losing a player of his caliber is never a good thing.
Fortunately for the Falcons, they have a strong base leading the charge in freshly-minted captain Dan DeSalvo (32 points). He will lead an experienced group up front, which includes Mark Cooper (24 points) Adam Berkle and Ben Murphy (21 points each). The X-factor here is Brent Tate. If the hulking forward can stay healthy for the entire season, he has the capability to be one of the best forwards in the WCHA. But having missed at least 11 games in each of his first two years, that’s no sure thing.
The BG defense will have a fresh look to it this season, with four freshmen coming into the mix. The Falcons lost their power play quarterback when Ralfs Freibergs turned pro, so replacing his offensive production (22 points) will present a challenge. Obviously much of the preseason buzz has been devoted to Philadelphia Flyers draftee Mark Freidman, but don’t sleep on redshirt freshman Nolan Valleau.
Sophomore Sean Walker is one of the youngest players on the roster, but he’s arguably the best defenseman. With 13 points and 75 penalty minutes last year, he’s a tough but talented player, and with a year of college hockey under his belt he could be in line for a breakout year. Keep an eye on former 20-point player Dajon Mingo. He’s once again academically eligible and will be a full-time defenseman this year. His speed and skill will provide an interesting dynamic on the BG blue line.
BG finds itself in an unfamiliar position with its netminders. It, theoretically, has three goalies are capable of handling the No. 1 job this year. The jobs figures to be Tommy Burke’s to lose. Coming off a 14-7-6 season with decent peripheral numbers (2.43 goals-against average, .912 save percent) he was a good option in the crease last year. But if BG hopes to compete for a league title, he’ll need to improve on those numbers. Sophomore Tomas Sholl (2.68 GAA, .896 save percent) got 12 starts under his belt last year. Whether or not coach Chris Bergeron rolls with a 1A 1B in net is still not yet clear.
Waiting in the wings is freshman Chris Nell, who had arguably had more impressive junior numbers than both Burke and Sholl. His final year with Chicago of the USHL, Nell had a 3.18 GAA and .910 save percent. Both Burke and Sholl competed in the NAHL, a tier below the USHL. Should he impress in early-season practice, or should either of the two in front of him struggle early, don’t be surprised to see Bergeron give him a look in the crease.
Drew Evans, Co-Founder/Editor
Though the Falcons lost their two best offensive weapons in Ryan Carpenter and Bryce Williamson, they should still be able to put up 3-4 goals/game. Adam Berkle, Mark Cooper, and Ben Murphy will carry most of the primary scoring with Pierre-Luc Mercier, Brent Tate, and Matt Pohlkamp providing scoring potential as well
Among the fresh faces, the Falcons will look at Mitch McLain, Jakob Reichert, and Brett D’Andrea to pace the freshman forwards. The only question mark may be whether the Falcon’s will feature a “shut down” line as they did at the end of last season. The line mates of Andrew Wallace, Cam Wojtala, and Brett Mohler were leaned on heavily to lead the defensive attack. Bergeron may opt to push four scoring lines and rely on a veteran defensive corps.
If you’ve paid attention to the past few seasons of recruiting for the Falcons you’ll notice a trend: Chris Bergeron values puck moving defenseman who aren’t afraid to to pinch in. The loss of Ralfs Freibergs to the professional ranks left a void that the team is hoping Mark Freidman can fill. Friedman, a third round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, could potentially be a one-and-done if he plays to the potential that the Flyers expect. As well, Dajon Mingo has moved to the defensive corps full time and will see no shortage of minutes as the power play QB on the blue line.
Nolan Valleau Austin Carroll, Braden Pears rounds out the rest of the rookies on defense. With players like Mike Sullivan, Sean Walker, and Connor Kucera the Falcons will lean heavily on veterans to create scoring from the top of the zone. Bowling Green will need to make sure their offensive emphasis isn’t their undoing as well. The Falcons gave up 5 shorthanded markers last season.
Like last season Coach Bergeron will most likely look to push a two-goalie system. He was “forced” to abandon this when Tommy Burke became so consistent at the end of last season. With a season under his belt I would expect Tomas Sholl to take a big step forward.
Replacing Scott Zacharias as the third goalie will be freshman Chris Nell. The 6’1″ net minder hails from Green Bay and should enjoy a full season able to learn behind the two talented Bowling Green goalies.
Kevin Gordon, Feature Writer
Improved goaltending is a must for the Falcons, who were in a three-way tie for fifth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association last season in overall save percentage (.903) and sixth in league-game save percentage (.905).
“We’re not going to win championships with just OK to good goaltending, and that’s where we’re at right now,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “You look at the top teams in the league, and they’re getting championship-level goaltending.”
Junior Tommy Burke and sophomore Tomas Sholl shared the No. 1 job last season.
Burke had a 2.43 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in 28 games, while Sholl had a 2.68 goals-against and an .896 save percentage in 12 games. Burke started 27 of BG’s 39 games, including each of the final 10 games.
Also vying for playing time is freshman Chris Nell, who had a 3.18 goals-against and a .910 save percentage in 43 games for the United States (Junior) Hockey League’s Chicago Steel last season.
“We’re deep in goal, and we’ll have good competition there,” Bergeron said. “The guy getting the job done will play. I hope we have all three playing well, and all three are capable.”
BG’s defense has a good mix of speed and skill, size and strength, and experience and youth. The defense includes seniors Rusty Hafner, Connor Kucera and Mike Sullivan; juniors Jose Delgadillo and Dajon Mingo; and sophomore Sean Walker.
Newcomers Mark Friedman and Nolan Valleau also are expected to see significant playing time.
“We feel good about our defense,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons figure to be strong again offensively after they were third in the WCHA last season in scoring (3.05 goals per game).
Despite the loss of Ryan Carpenter, who signed with the San Jose Sharks, BG returns 16 of its top 18 scorers. The Falcons also graduated Bryce Williamson, who had 12 goals and 16 assists last season.
“Our offense will continue to be by committee,” Bergeron said. “We should have a lot of guys contributing offensively.
Among the top returnees are senior Dan DeSalvo, who had seven goals and 25 assists last season; junior Mark Cooper, 14 goals, 10 assists; junior Ben Murphy, 13 goals, eight assists; and senior Adam Berkle, 10 goals, 11 assists.
“We have a lot of weapons offensively, and that internal competition will force guys to earn their playing time,” Bergeron said. “Nothing’s going to be given to them.”
One key to the offense is a more consistent power play, which was fourth in the WCHA last season at 18.9 percent.