Notebook: Freshmen play key roles in BG’s success

By December 18, 2014Notebooks

Bowling Green’s freshmen are off to an impressive start.

They’ve contributed offensively, defensively and in goal, playing a large role in the team’s success during the first half.

The Falcons are 11-3-2 overall and 8-1-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

BGHcky_at_OSU111514-0175BG is in the middle of a three-week break and will return to action Jan. 3-4 against No. 17 Robert Morris (11-2-3) in a nonleague series. The Falcons resume practice Dec. 28.

“They’ve acclimated themselves very well,” Bergeron said. “The concern you have as a coach is they take their foot off the gas the second half of the year.

“It’s our responsibility to not allow that to happen, and it’s their responsibility to not allow that to happen.”

The Falcons’ 11-player freshman class is, by far, the largest on their 28-player roster. Nine of the freshmen have played, and all nine have played at least five games.

“The focus stays on the game,” Bergeron said. “The player on his best day versus the player on his worst day, that gap needs to be small, and that’s consistency. That’s the biggest challenge for the second semester.”

Brandon Hawkins is fourth on the team with 11 points, and Mitch McLain is tied for fifth with 10. Hawkins is second on the team with six goals, and McLain and Tyler Spezia each have four.

Spezia skated on one of BG’s top lines with seniors Adam Berkle and Dan DeSalvo until missing the last four games with an illness.

Forwards Brett D’Andrea, Ben Greiner and Jakob Reichert have combined for five goals and four assists.

Nolan Valleau and Mark Friedman have played regularly and steadily improved on defense. They’ve also combined for one goal and 11 assists.

Goalie Chris Nell is 5-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage, including two shutouts.

He would lead the WCHA in goals-against average and save percentage, but he hasn’t played enough minutes to qualify for the league leaders. Goalies must play at least 33 percent of their team’s minutes to qualify.

The freshmen have played key roles on BG’s power-play and penalty-killing units.

“The first semester is usually more difficult than the second for the freshmen because they don’t know what they don’t know,” Bergeron said. “The second semester, at least they have an idea of what they’re walking into and what they have in front of them on and off the ice.

“I hope that stays the same with these guys because it that’s true, it’ll be a good second semester for those guys because there’s plenty of room for improvement as well as they’ve played to this point.”

OVERALL: The Falcons’ .750 winning percentage is tied with Boston University, also 11-3-2, for the sixth-best in the nation.

Harvard is first at .833 (9-1-2), followed by Michigan Tech (.812, 13-3), RMU (.781), and Minnesota State (.765, 13-4).

POLL BEST: The Falcons remained 13th in this week’s U.S. College Hockey Online Top 20, their highest ranking in the poll since it started in 1997.

BREAK: The USCHO and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls are taking a two-week break for the holidays.

Both polls will resume Jan. 5.

ALASKA: Bergeron didn’t know if he would prefer to make two trips to Alaska each season or make one trip there and play back-to-back weekends.

The Falcons are traveling to Alaska twice this season and will do it again next season.

Northern Michigan hosted BG Dec. 5-6 after playing back-to-back weekends in Alaska.

Michigan Tech and Minnesota State played back-to-back weekends in Alaska last season, and Ferris State will do it next month. The Ferris series are Friday-Saturday and Thursday-Friday.

“I’d have to talk to coaches who have done it and find out what it was like,” Bergeron said of playing back-to-back series in Alaska.

The Falcons visited Alaska (Fairbanks) Nov. 7-8 and play at Alaska-Anchorage Feb. 27-28.

“Some of the rumblings I’ve heard from people who have been up there for back-to-back weekends is that’s just too long to be up there,” Bergeron. “Let’s see how this year goes and then I can talk to those guys who have done the back to back weekends.”

When the Falcons and other members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association moved to the WCHA after the 2012-13 season, there were rumors back-to-back series in Alaska would be played in a Friday-Saturday, Tuesday-Wednesday format to shorten the trip.

“That’s something, as we continue to move forward in a new WCHA, we need to get creative like that and see if that’s possible,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron added the WCHA should consider having the Alaska schools play in the same shorter format when they travel to the Lower 48 states on back-to-back weekends for league series.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined BGSUHockey.com after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. He now provides his features, notebooks, and insights with BGSUHockey.com to continue providing Falcon hockey fans with the in-depth coverage they've loved for nearly three decades. He can be reached by e-mail at Kevin@bgsuhockey.com and on Twitter at @KGordonBG.

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