Brent Tate’s impact was immediate last weekend.
The junior forward — after missing five games with a groin injury — played well in the Falcons’ split against Ohio State.
Tate had two goals in a 3-2 loss in the series opener, and an on-ice rating of plus-1 in each game. The 6-foot-2, 187-pounder is one of BG’s most valuable players because of his scoring touch and physical presence.
Before the injury, he was skating on BG’s power-play and penalty-killing units.
Next for the Falcons is a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series Friday and Saturday against Bemidji State. Faceoff is 7:07 both nights in the Ice Arena.
“The impact he has on the score sheet, everybody can see that,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “But he’s just a presence on our team. He’s a vocal guy. He plays with a bunch of emotion and energy, and that’s contagious.”
Tate first injured his groin in BG’s season opener and then missed three games. He returned Oct. 24 against Clarkson when he was rushed back into the lineup before he was 100 percent.
He has three goals, including one on the power play, in four games this season.
Tate has 17 goals and 18 assists in 56 career games, but he has been injury prone and has missed 28 games in his career.
Against OSU, Tate was moved from wing to center. That wasn’t the plan going into the weekend, but Bergeron liked the way Tate played there.
“He played a couple shifts at center and liked it,” Bergeron said. “He’s a guy who asks a bunch of questions and wants to know, and that’s a good thing. He hadn’t practiced (as a center). Having a full week of practice will only help his comfort level at the position.
“A big part of playing center is faceoffs, and he’s always been comfortable doing that. Another big part is playing down low in our (defensive) zone, and he’s fine doing that. He competes hard and knows what’s going on.”
SHARP: BG goalie Tommy Burke has played well in his last four games, posting a 2.20 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
The junior started four straight games before freshman Chris Nell started BG’s series finale at Ohio State. Nell had 27 saves in a 3-2 BG win.
“You know what you’re going to get with Tommy, and he doesn’t get too high or too low, whether good things happen or bad things happen,” Bergeron said. “He’s on top of his game. He looks in control.
“He stopped the pucks he was supposed to stop, and that’s what we’re looking for. We didn’t seem to have that one bad goal that we needed to have or he wants to have back.”
NET BATTLE: Bergeron is pleased with BG’s competition in goal as Burke, Nell and sophomore Tomas Sholl battle for playing time.
“This goalie thing is really turning into a competition,” Bergeron said. “They’re seeing each other play well, and it’s bringing out good things in the other two. Sholl, by no means, is out of the competition. It’s playing itself out.”
Burke has a 2.15 goals-against and a .915 save percentage in six games.
Nell has a 2.00 goals-against and a .900 save percentage. Sholl has a 2.67 goals-against and an .897 save percentage.
HOME/AWAY: The Falcons have played better on the road than they have at home this season.
BG is just 2-2 at home and is coming off a disappointing performance in the Ice Arena during a 3-2 loss last Friday to Ohio State. The Falcons are 6-1-1 on the road.
“We need to take care of our home ice,” Bergeron said.
After the Bemidji series, the Falcons wont play again in the Ice Arena until Jan. 9-10 when they host Alaska.
BG has just four games in that span — a two-game series at Northern Michigan Dec. 5-6, and a home-and-home series against Robert Morris Jan. 3-4.
The Falcons’ home game against RMU is an outdoor game against Fifth Third Field in Toledo.
NEXT: Although Bemidji is 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the WCHA, it has played a brutal schedule.
The Beavers have split with North Dakota, and lost twice to Minnesota, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State.
This week, Tech is ranked first, North Dakota second, Minnesota fourth and MSU ninth. Minnesota was ranked first a week ago.
“We’re playing a very good team,” Bergeron said. “They’re better than their record indicates. They’ve played a very difficult schedule.
“Listening to their players and coaches, they’re on top of their game. They feel like they’re playing well. It’s a dangerous group. We have to raise our level. We’ll have to be ready to go.”
Bemidji is fourth in the WCHA in scoring (3.0 goals per game) and next-to-last in goals allowed (3.4 gpg).
Sophomore forwards Nate Arentz and Brendan Harms, and junior Markus Gerbrandt all have eight points. Harms and Gerbrandt share the team lead in goals with four.
Sophomore defenseman Matt Prapavessis has three goals and four assists and an on-ice rating of plus-7.
Senior Andrew Walsh (3.22, .892) and sophomore Michael Bitzer (2.83, .899) each has started five games in goal.