Brent Tate is one of Bowling Green’s most valuable players.
The only problem for the Falcons, though, is they haven’t had the junior forward in the lineup often enough during his first two seasons.
But the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder is finally healthy this season.
Tate’s presence is a must for the Falcons, who are hoping to challenge for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
The Falcons open the season this weekend against 11th-ranked and former Central Collegiate Hockey Association rival Miami. The teams play Friday in the Ice Arena at 7:07 p.m. and Sunday in Oxford at 5:05 p.m.
Tate is a scoring threat, totaling 14 goals and 18 assists in 52 games with the Falcons. But he’s far more than a scorer. He can defend, play on the power-play and penalty-killing units, block shots, be a force physically and serves as a team leader.
Knee and back injuries, however, sidelined him for 17 games as a freshman and 11 games as a sophomore. He missed the final seven games last season because of knee surgery. Tate is healthy now and he’s ready to be an even bigger factor for the Falcons, who were fourth in the WCHA coaches poll.
“It means a bunch to have him in the lineup on a night in, night out basis,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He’s a presence. The part about Brent is that he’s constantly communicating with his teammates, not just his linemates, but his teammates, and he has a winning attitude and a winning edge to him.”
“Whether we’re down a goal, up a goal, he’s constantly talking about it. Hopefully, this year, he’s able to go out there physically and do something about it, instead of just talking about it or doing it in practice.”
Tate’s strength is his physical presence. He excels on the forecheck, battling opposing defensemen for the puck, and he loves to play in front of the net and in the corners — or the dirty areas as they’re called in hockey vernacular.
“I want to be a presence every game, play my role, my style and do all of the little things well,” said Tate, who was named one of BG’s assistant captains last week.
Tate also is known as a pest and an agitator — again quoting hockey vernacular — because he consistently gets under the skin of his opponents. He’s the one player BG opponents and their fans love to hate, but he’d be a welcome addition to almost any roster in college hockey. Two of his summer workout friends — former Western Michigan defenseman Jordan Oesterle and Ferris State junior defenseman Dakota Klecha — told Tate just that earlier this summer. “Every team needs that player,” Tate said, sporting a big grin. “It’s something I do well. It’s part of who I am on the ice. I’m hard to play against.”
Tate admitted he came to BG “a bit banged up” after a three-year career with the Lincoln Stars in the United States (Junior) Hockey League. He spent most of his first two seasons at BG trying to get healthy and that was a challenge because of the toll the physical play took on his body.
“I’m ready to go, and I’m excited about the season,” said Tate, who will turn 23 next month. “I feel great, 100 percent, the best I’ve felt since I’ve been here.” But this summer, instead of rehabbing an injury, Tate used the offseason to become stronger and to work on his skating. He said he’s learned to eat right and to get the proper amount of rest. “This was a good summer for Brent,” Bergeron said. “He was able to train and prepare, versus rehab, and that’s a good thing. He deserves to have a good year.”
Tate has been a regular for the Falcons since playing at Lincoln where he had 21 goals, 41 assists and 416 penalty minutes in 108 career games. He also received interest from Alaska (Fairbanks), Alaska-Anchorage, Northern Michigan, Penn State and Merrimack during the recruiting process. Tate attended the summer prospects camp of the NHL’s Washington Capitals two years ago.
Tate is from Canton, Mich., located between Ann Arbor and Detroit. He has a 3.0 grade-point average and is majoring in sport management. “We expect him to have a good year,” Bergeron said. “He’s better prepared to play the way he plays. He’s trained at a higher level than he’s ever trained before.”