Bowling Green has steadily improved its talent and depth.
The Falcons believe they have their most talented and deepest team during Chris Bergeron’s six seasons as head coach.
They host the University of Toronto in an exhibition contest Saturday night at 7:07.
BG starts the season Oct. 9-10 with a nonleague home-and-home series against Ohio State.
“I do think our depth has been better than it has been at all three positions, that’s where we’ve made some improvement,” Bergeron said. “That internal competition is going to be high. The fight for playing time is going to be high.
“That brings out the best in kids who are wired a certain way and we feel we’ve got 27 kids who are wired a certain way. Guys are going to have to bring it every day in practice.”
The Falcons return their top four and six of their top seven scorers from last season, including sophomore Brandon Hawkins, who led the team with 16 goals and 30 points last season. They also return five defensemen and three goalies.
Among the other returnees are junior Sean Walker and sophomore Mark Friedman on defense, and senior Tommy Burke in goal.
Although Burke, Friedman, Walker and Hawkins, among others, are expected to be consistent contributors, the Falcons figure to have different heroes each game.
“We will do it as a family, as a committee. That’s how I want to be,” Bergeron said. “That’s how you win championships at the level we want to win them at.”
EXPECTATIONS: BG has high hopes this season after going 23-11-5 overall and finishing third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association last season. It advanced to the semifinals of the league playoffs and was ranked as high as sixth nationally.
But the Falcons were only 12-8-3 after Christmas, including losses to Lake Superior, Alaska-Anchorage and Northern Michigan (twice). Those three teams finished in the bottom four of the league.
The Falcons are seeking to win WCHA regular-season and playoff championships, and advance to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1990.
BG’s 23 wins last season were its most in 19 seasons. The Falcons also have increased their win total in each of the last five seasons, the first time that’s happened in school history.
“We showed we weren’t ready for those expectations, based on the way we played most of the second half,” Bergeron said. “I’m hoping this group acts like they’ve been there a little bit. We’ve got a talented team with expectations.
“This is what we do here. This is how we operate. We keep pushing. We make sure the expectations are something that we make sure everyone has their arms wrapped around, which is that daily process approach we walked about six years ago. We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
NATIONALS: BG missed the NCAA playoffs by .0002 of a point last season in the Pairwise Rankings, which select the teams for national playoffs. Providence earned the final at-large berth over BG and eventually won the NCAA championship.
The Falcons have .0002 on a T-shirt this season to remind the players not so much about last season, but to remind them what they can accomplish with more improvement and hard work.
Had the Falcons won one more game last season, they would have been in the NCAA playoffs.
“We’re watching teams in our league celebrate league and playoff championships,” Bergeron said. “We want that. That’s the type of mentality we want our team to have. Why does it have to be a Pairwise thing?
“We win the (league) playoffs we’re in the national tournament. That’s the process which leads to the results of a league championship, a playoff championship and, hopefully, a national tournament. That’s where we are as a group. We need to take that next step.”
FITNESS: Bergeron was pleased with the team’s fitness and strength entering fall practice.
“All indications are the summer was good,” Bergeron said. “On the ice, we look stronger. We look faster. But nobody’s pushed back against us yet. When people start to push back, adversity hits, the lineup goes up and they’re not in it, it starts to separate, is when you get the real indication of how things went.”
“The summer was good, but we want the summer to be great and that’s what we’re going to keep shooting for.”
CAPTAINS: Walker was named the team’s captain, Bergeron announced Friday. Senior forwards Mark Cooper and Brent Tate were named assistant captains.