Chris Bergeron recently sat down with BGSUHockey.com’s Kevin Gordon for an interview covering a wide range of topics. Today is part one with parts two and three to follow on Tuesday and Wednesday.
GORDON: Please give us an overview of where the program is you enter your sixth season?
BERGERON: I’m happy with where the program is. The summer time gives me a chance to decompress a little bit and truly think about things at a high level.
When I think about what we walked into from a program perspective, the Ice Arena, budget, talent level, staff, perception in the hockey world — you name it, with the exception of our grades and the type of kid we had on the team — it’s improved everywhere.
BGSU sees the value in a hockey program again. The experience people are having in the Ice Arena is more positive, whether it’s a BGSU hockey game or something else. Whether we’re winning or not, there’s other things to enhance that experience.
Obviously, our team is better, realistically and perception-wise, because it’s a program.
This summer has been beneficial to me and the coaching staff to look back at where this program is. Anyone who knows us knows we’ll never take our foot off the gas because we’ve arrived. Where we are today, we’re satisfied with that and we’re looking forward to this season and taking that next step because that’s where we feel we are. It’s time to take that next step.
Back to back years of third place (in the WCHA), hosting first-round WCHA playoff series, advancing to the WCHA Final Five, last team out of the NCAA Tournament last year, that’s nothing more than a stat. To me, we’re the same as the other 44 teams that didn’t make it. We were one of the teams outside the 16 who made the NCAA playoffs. It doesn’t matter if we were the 17th team or not. We need to take the next step. Hopefully, our players are prepared to do that on the ice.
GORDON: What is the next step, you mentioned? Winning a league championship, advancing to the NCAA Tournament?
BERGERON: Yes. Our new bottom line, our new standard is 20 wins and being an NCAA Tournament team. I want that to be a good year. A great year, we win championships, whether it be league, playoffs or you get to a national championship or a national tournament situation, you know you’re four wins away.
It’s time for us to take that step. There’s a couple teams in our league we’re trying to be like, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State, and even Ferris State with what they did in our league a couple years ago.
There’s championships involved with those teams. If we want to be like them, from a league and national perspective, we need to be in that conversation of winning championships.
Yes, we’ve been in the WCHA Final Five the last two seasons. But during the regular season, we really weren’t, especially during the second half, contending. In the playoffs, we’ve done fine. But a semifinal loss the last two years, hopefully, that’s leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and it’s time to take another step.
GORDON: What has to happen for the team/program to take that next step?
BERGERON: Part of that answer is continuing to live this. I can’t put my finger on just one thing.
There’s different things that come up. We haven’t played well during the last two WCHA semifinal games. We’ve played well at times over the course of the regular season. Both home playoff series, we’ve played OK.
It’s a lot of different things. It’s a belief and an expectation, first and foremost. In our opinion, the everyday belief that we’re a type of team that belongs and will be willing to play to that responsibility, to prepare, to practice, to lift, to whatever we’re doing on that day to become a Top 10 team, a Top 5 team, a top team in our league, a top team in the country.
Last year, we lost games we shouldn’t have lost because we thought we could just put the gear on and show up. We need to be a team that wins games because we know we will on paper and then go out and make that happen. We’re not there. That has to change.
There’s a real expectation there, a real belief there, but just that little bit has to change on a daily basis. Again, you look at the teams, we’re trying to beat and be like in our league, they won every game they’re supposed to win. They didn’t leave things for granted. We did. Our second half last year wasn’t good enough.
Ultimately, I’m not sure what game or what games, but the combination of those things cost us a national tournament bid. That has to change. Just like we always have, we’ll look at that in a small picture, short time perspective. We want to improve on a daily basis and I don’t think we did that enough last year.
GORDON: With the improvement in the program over the last five seasons, how do you think the program is perceived nationally now and how has that impacted recruiting?
BERGERON: It’s hard to totally say. We’re perceived as relevant again in terms of Bowling Green is committed to ice hockey just like they once were.
There were people outside the program and non-hockey fans questioning how much is ice hockey a priority on this campus. I know it once was, but is it still a priority? That has totally changed to back to where it once was.
The national perception is Bowling Green is a committed to having a great hockey program again. I don’t know what people think, but that’s what I think the perception is. It’s the exact opposite to what it was five, six years (ago).
That helps us in the recruiting world. When you’re making calls to young people five, six years ago, ask Dennis (Williams) and Scott (Paluch) this, when there are perceptions out there that the program is going away and why would I go there because there’s no future there, that’s difficult. But that’s totally changed now.
We are getting people to call us back, based on the fact that Bowling Green is committed to ice hockey at a high level, based on the fact that the last couple years have been pretty good in terms of winning and losing. Those things have changed and that’s where we want those perceptions to have changed, is in the recruiting world, among the junior hockey coaches, the youth hockey coaches, talking to these kids and these kids talking to their parents and so on.
When Bowling Green is committed to having hockey at a high level and Bowling Green is a place kids want to go to, not only academically and socially, but hockey wise. That is something we walked into that wasn’t always the case.
GORDON: Is the way last season ended, the way the second half went a source of motivation for the team this season?
BERGERON: To some level, I hope so. I want it to sting and burn a bit. That hunger and desire to take a step forward, that’s something they would have had to focus on during their (summer training).
We’ll see what type of training they did and we’ll see what kind of shape they’re in, mentally and physically.
This is a new season and we’re going to focus on this season, not last season. But we left some things on the table as far as we’re concerned. That’s the way we felt at the end of last season and I don’t see any reason why we’d feel any different right now.
It’s a new year and we’re going to focus on it as such. But we want to take a step forward, based on the things we left on the table last year.
Year-by-Year Under Bergeron
|2010-2011||10-27-4 (.293)||11th (CCHA)|
|2011-2012||14-25-5 (.375)||11th (CCHA)|
|2012-2013||15-21-5 (.427)||9th (CCHA)|
|2013-2014||18-15-6 (.538)||T-3rd (WCHA)|
|2014-2015||23-11-5 (.654)||3rd (WCHA)|
Our new bottom line, our new standard is 20 wins and being an NCAA Tournament team. I want that to be a good year. A great year, we win championships, whether it be league, playoffs or you get to a national championship or a national tournament situation, you know you’re four wins away.Chris Bergeron
This is a new season and we’re going to focus on this season, not last season. But we left some things on the table as far as we’re concerned. That’s the way we felt at the end of last season and I don’t see any reason why we’d feel any different right now.Chris Bergeron