Bowling Green’s major priority for next season is improving its team defense.
The Falcons were sixth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in goals allowed, 2.38 per game.
Although BG is seeking to allow fewer goals next season, it allowed fewer goals this season compared to the 2013-14 season when it gave up 2.7 goals per game.
The team defense was a major problem during the second half when BG gave up three or more goals in 10 of its 20 games. The Falcons were 2-7-1 in those 10 games.
“We need to defend better,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “I didn’t think our team defense was as good as it has been in the past from start to finish. Ultimately, it cost us over time.”
The Falcons didn’t play well defensively as a team in a 5-2 season-ending loss March 20 to fifth-ranked Michigan Tech.
“Too much is being put on the one game (Michigan Tech in the WCHA Final Five),” Bergeron said. “We played a very good team, the team (tied for) the most wins in college hockey this year.
“It wasn’t about that one game. It was as much about our second half as anything. We just didn’t defend as well.”
PRACTICE: Improved execution in practice is another point of emphasis for BG. Bergeron mentioned several times during the second half he wasn’t happy with the team’s practices.
“Our overall execution in practice for the second half of the year wasn’t good enough,” Bergeron said. “Our execution on a daily basis wasn’t good enough. We want that to be better.
POWER PLAY: The power play is another area the Falcons are looking for more consistency. They converted at 15.6 percent with the extra man this season, down from 18.9 percent the previous season.
The Falcons started the season 7 of 23 on the power play, but then scored just once in the next seven games. BG also had a seven-game stretch in January and February where it didn’t score a power-play goal.
Of the 10 players who skated on the power play in BG’s season-ending loss against Michigan Tech, three were freshmen, two were sophomores, three were juniors, and two were seniors.
One of the five-man units included three freshmen.
“I sure hope it takes more guys being experienced power play guys at this level,” Bergeron said. “ We showed signs early. The consistency comes with a little bit of experience, guys getting older on the power play.”
Bergeron also believes BG’s incoming recruiting class will help the power play.
“You’re going to hear this a bunch, the competition to be on the power play is getting better,” Bergeron said. “So, if you’re not getting the job done on the power play, someone else is getting the opportunity.
“You will either improve your play and play better, or someone else will take your spot. When that’s the case and you have the right type of people, which we think we have, you get more out of everybody. We’re losing some great kids, but we’re bringing in some great kids. We’re brining in kids who are going to add to that internal competition, and the power play is going to be a part of it.”
FRIEDMAN: Bergeron expects defenseman Mark Friedman to return next season.
The freshman was a third-round draft pick of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers last summer.
Friedman was named to the WCHA’s all-rookie team. He played in all 39 games, totaling two goals and 17 assists, and an-ice rating of plus-7. He skated on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
“As far as I know, he will be back. I have no information that he won’t be,” Bergeron said. “From our conversations with Philadelphia, they’re happy with Mark being here and the role he has with our team, the situations he’s playing in and the coaching he’s getting. I don’t see any reason why that would change.”
MINGO: Bergeron didn’t know if Dajon Mingo would return next season.
The redshirt junior is in his fourth season after sitting out his first season because he didn’t meet NCAA entrance requirements. But by being eligible and on track to graduate, he regained his fourth year of eligibility.
“We’re pushing him to graduate,” Bergeron said. “He won’t graduate in May, but will he have graduated by the end of the summer? I’m not sure how realistic that is right now. He’s welcome back. He has another year of eligibility. We don’t want him to walk away without graduating.
“He’s a guy who can help our team. But this is more about Dajon than it is about hockey. We’ll see how that plays out.”
MORE MINGO: If Mingo returns, Bergeron hasn’t decided if he’ll play forward or defense.
He came to BG as a forward, but was switched to defense last season before he was academically ineligible for the second half. He remained on defense this season, but he did see some action at forward late in the season.
Mingo has excellent skating and offensive skills, something the Falcons have lacked on the blue line.
“The bottom line is during the course of Dajon’s time here we’ve talked more about his off-ice consistency with his schoolwork than we have about his hockey,” Bergeron said.
Mingo had a goal and nine assists in 39 games this season. His on-ice rating was even as he often struggled to defend.
“He played a lot for us this year and it was inconsistent,” Bergeron said. “We feel he’s better than that. If he has pro hockey aspirations, then he needs to bring a level of consistency that he didn’t have this year. That’s our fault, that’s the coaches’ fault, that’s my fault. We should have been doing both — harping on consistency on and off the ice in terms of his approach.”
In 98 career games, he has 12 goals and 19 assists.
“We still may have another year together and that will be the focus, to continue to push in the classroom for sure so you stay on track to graduate and ultimately graduate,” Bergeron said. “But there’s another level with him in hockey and we need to get to that level as well.”