Tommy Burke enters next season as Bowling Green’s No. 1 goalie.
The junior posted a 14-6-3 record with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 23 games this season.
Burke started 22 games as BG posted records of 23-11-5 overall and 17-8-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He started the team’s final seven games and 12 of its last 15 contests.
The Falcons finished third in the WCHA and were ranked as high as sixth nationally.
“Tommy Burke was pretty consistent,” Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. “He consistently, from day one to today, has found a way to start games. He just finds a way.”
Also returning in goal are freshman Chris Nell and sophomore Tomas Sholl.
Nell was a 6-4-2 in 13 games, posting a 2.32 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Sholl, who played in just five games, was 3-1 with a 2.58 goals-against and a .907 save percentage.
Nell played well during the first half, but struggled in January when Burke emerged as the team’s top goalie.
Sholl opened the season with 22 saves in a 3-2 win over sixth-ranked Miami. But just three weeks later, he stopped only 29 of 34 shots in a 5-2 loss to No. 1 Minnesota State.
Sholl lasted just 16:18 in his final start against Alaska (Fairbanks) Jan. 10 when he stopped only 6 of 8 shots.
“There’s going to be some pretty stern conversations, from a consistency standpoint, with Tomas Sholl and Chris Nell,” Bergeron said. “We’ve got two other guys who were pretty inconsistent.
“Chris (had) a good first half, not as good second half. It was almost that black and white. Tomas was able to play really well in practice, for the most part, this year and he wasn’t able to translate into games enough.”
The three goalies will compete for playing time again next season.
“I still feel like we had a really good, healthy competition in goal the first six, eight weeks of our season and it brought out the best in all three of them,” Bergeron said. “As we stand right now, that’s the plan going into next year.”
MORE SHOLL: Sholl has struggled during his first two seasons after being recruited to replaced four-year standout Andrew Hammond, who currently is playing for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.
Sholl has played in just 17 games in two seasons, posting a 2.67 goals-against and a .900 save percentage.
“The mental side of things, he’s got to get more consistent with,” Bergeron said. “But
staying focused and staying consistent from a mental standpoint was his biggest challenge, and it was his challenge last year, too. That’ll be our focus with him. Physically, he’s capable. Mentally, he needs to be more consistent.”
FORWARDS: BG figures to be good again offensively next season as it could return as many as 13 of its top 15 scorers, including six of the top eight.
Graduating are Adam Berkle and Dan DeSalvo, who combined for 10 goals and 31 assists.
But the top four scorers return — freshman Brandon Hawkins (16 goals, 14 assists), sophomores Pierre-Luc Mercier (eight goals, 17 assists) and Matt Pohlkamp (eight goals, 17 assists), and junior Ben Murphy (11 goals, 10 assists).
Also returning are sophomore Kevin Dufour, junior Brent Tate and freshman Mitch McLain, who combined for 32 goals.
The Falcons were third in the league in scoring, averaging 3.11 goals per game. Yet, consistency was a problem during the second half as they scored two or fewer goals in eight of their final 20 games.
DEFENSE: The Falcons will have a more experienced defense next season with at least five blueliners returning.
The returnees are junior Jose Delgadillo; sophomore Sean Walker; and freshmen Mark Friedman, Nolan Valleau and Braden Pears.
Redshirt junior Dajon Mingo also could return, but it hasn’t been determined if he would play forward or defense should be return.
RECRUITS: The Falcons will have at least four freshmen next season.
They are defenseman Connor McDonald, and forwards John Shilling, Joe McKeown and Shane Bednard.
Bergeron also said forward Stephen Baylis would be in school next fall, but might not be able to play as a freshman.
Baylis is “working through some NCAA eligibility requirements,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron also said no decision has been made on whether Matt Pohlkamp’s brother, Chris, will join the team next season.
Chris Pohlkamp, a defenseman who plays well offensively and defensively, will join BG either next season or for the 2016-17 season.
“He’s 100 percent in the conversation, but he’s still playing,” Bergeron said when asked if Chris Pohlkamp would join the team in the fall. “We haven’t had those discussions outside of our staff.”
Additional players still could join the class, Bergeron said.
“The class right now looks like four or five, but it could be six or seven over the course of the next six weeks,” Bergeron said. “Recruiting is a constant everyday thing. Just because it’s March 25, doesn’t mean our recruiting is done. We’ve got lots to do.”