We’re two games into Bowling Green’s season and we’re already at a better place than we were last year.
The Falcons started last season against similarly talented (but definitely stronger) Union College team. A 3-3 tie Friday night was followed up by a 5-2 loss Saturday against the Dutchmen last year. We all know the results of this weekend’s game, a 1-1 weekend against a team that came into 2014-15 ranked No. 10 nationally, but finished last year 15-20-3 last year.
That record is a little deceiving, because the NCHC, the league Miami played in is stupid difficult. That being said, despite the talent that’s on this roster, it’s not quite to par with past RedHawks teams. What that means, I don’t really know. Just kind of thinking out loud here.
Regardless, getting a win against a ranked non-league team to start the season is a good first step. Let’s dive into it.
That freshman defenseman: The Falcons have one of the most exciting freshman in the WCHA, a defenseman who was drafted in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
That’s also not who this bullet point is about.
Mark Freidman has played a strong first two games for BG. He scored last night on a great play in the offensive zone. But he hasn’t been the most impressive freshman on the roster. That honor goes to Nolan Valleau.
Through two games, Valleau has four assists. That’s good for first in the WCHA in points after one weekend. Obviously it’s early, duh, but that’s a pretty strong start for the 6-foot-1 blue liner.
Valleau has been with the team since January, following a late commitment — he redshirted last year. That extra time to get up to speed with the team has paid dividends thus far, against pretty strong competition. If he can keep up this production, that will be a huge boost for the Falcons this year.
In net: Entering the season, coach Chris Bergeron said each goalie would get a start in the first three games this season. After the exhibition, he amended that to the first two weekends. After seeing Tomas Sholl and Tommy Burke in net against Miami, that means we will in all likelihood see freshman Chris Nell in net for one game against Huntsville this weekend.
Which game he would start is still a question, as is who would play in the other game: Burke or Sholl. Last year’s numbers would point to Burke. Numbers from the first two games would indicate Sholl.
Without thinking about it, seeing Sholl start opening night was kind of strange, considering the way Tommy Burke ascended into the No. 1 job in the second half of last year.
But when you think about it, the way Bergeron dealt with the goaltending made perfect sense. You’d rather start your most-experienced goalie in the hostile environment, which Bergeron did in starting Burke last night. Which, since he wanted to go with two different guys this weekend, means you’d have to start someone else in the opener. I can’t take credit for this line of thinking because Kevin Gordon pointed this out to me at the season-opening press conference almost two weeks ago. Just thought I’d share that with all of you.
Last night, Bergeron told me he feels the team played better in front of Sholl than they did Burke. That indicates, at least to me, that not as much clout will be put in who did what this weekend, but more so who does what in practice this week, when they’re evaluating who starts this weekend. We’ll see. This will actually be pretty fun to follow this year, especially if they’re shuffling the goalies because they’re all playing well, not necessarily because they’re playing poorly.
Dufour: Last year, Kevin Dufour scored nine times and had seven assists in 37 games. So far, in two games this year, he has three goals. That puts him on pace to score, like, a bazillion more goals than he did last year.
OK I exaggerate, but Dufour’s net presence this year has been rather impressive. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, he’s not as big as some of the other guys on the team, but he’s strong on his skates and plants himself well in front of the net. All three of his goals this season have been of the, “muck and grind” variety. You need a guy or two like that on your team who isn’t afraid to get in front of the net and dig for rebounds. It doesn’t hurt when that guy has some talent in his own right.
Dufour is strong on the forecheck and difficult to play against. He came on strong at the end of last season. Bergeron said before the season that the team will need to “score by committee” this year. Dufour provides a strong secondary scoring option that BG will need as the season goes along.
Conference play: Unlike last year, when BG didn’t dive into conference play until the first weekend of November, and played six non-league games to open the season, BG starts WCHA play this weekend against Huntsville. That’s probably the best team you can start against. Well, the way they’re playing right now, Lake Superior is probably the best team you can start against. But we’d just be arguing semantics at this point.
Huntsville’s struggles last season were well documented. They finished 2-35-1, with one of those wins coming against BG. You can bet the Falcons will not be overlooking the Chargers at all.
As we’ll touch on in power rankings tomorrow, the Chargers aren’t actually off to a bad start his season. They got swept by a pretty sub-par Colorado College team, but both were one-goal losses.
Goalie Carmine Guerriero was good last year, and was strong in Friday’s 3-2 loss. Matt Larose was OK last year, but he was also good in Saturday’s 4-3 loss. The problem is Huntsville needs their goalies to be good or they’re in trouble.
Why? They give up a lot of shots. Like, think of a lot of shots, and then multiply that by two. That’s how many shots Huntsville gives up (that’s not an accurate statement but whatever). They gave up 41.4 per game last year, and are on a similar road this year, allowing 85 in two games to CC.
On a positive note, they scored five times this weekend. That’s not a ton, but after scoring 1.1 goals per game last year, that’s obviously an improvement.
Defenseman Brandon Carlson scored twice and had an assist, and Frank Misuraca had a goal and an assist Saturday. They’ll be two to watch out for this weekend.