Bowling Green enters the season with high expectations.
The Falcons will attempt to turn those expectations into reality this weekend when they open the season against Ohio State in a nonleague home-and-home series.
The teams play Friday at Value City Arena in Columbus and Saturday in the Ice Arena. Faceoff is 7:05 p.m. Friday and 7:37 p.m. Saturday.
BG was 23-11-5 overall and third in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with a 17-8-3 record last season. It was third in the league coaches poll and 16th in U.S. College Hockey Online’s preseason poll.
The Falcons’ primary goals this season are winning league and playoff championships, and advancing to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1990.
“Our main focus is trying to get better every day, take care of the little things and focus on our process and details,” said Falcon senior assistant captain Brent Tate, one of 18 returning lettermen.
“We know if we take care of those things, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night.
The Falcons narrowly missed an NCAA playoff berth last season as they were edged by .0002 of a point by Providence for the final at-large berth. Providence went on to win the national championship.
BG missed the nationals because of four bad losses in the second half. The Falcons were swept at home by Northern Michigan, lost once at home to Lake Superior and lost once at Alaska-Anchorage. NMU finished seventh in the 10-team league, while Lake Superior tied for eighth and Alaska-Anchorage was last.
“We’re not too happy about it,” Tate said of the way last season ended. “We worked hard last year and wanted to make the national championships. All we can do is take care of this year. We can’t dwell on last year.
“We have to take each game one at a time and we’ll get the result we’re looking for.”
PP: Bergeron was pleased with BG’s power play in Saturday’s 4-3 exhibition win over Toronto. The Falcons were 1 of 5 and had eight shots in 6:31 with the extra man.
“For early in the year, they were moving it around pretty well,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons are striving for a significantly improved power play after scoring at just 15.6 percent last season. They scored only 24 power-play goals in 39 games.
PK: The Falcons didn’t allow a power-play goal in six attempts against Toronto, allowing zero shots in 9:06. BG junior Matt Pohlkamp scored a short-handed goal with 48 seconds remaining to break a 3-3 tie and give the Falcons a 4-3 win.
“That’s our goal every night, to be aggressive on the (penalty-kill) and not give them time and space with the puck,” Pohlkamp said.
BG’s penalty killing was second nationally last season at 89.8 percent.
REMINDER: Saturday’s game in the Ice Arena starts at 7:37 p.m., instead of the usual 7:07 p.m.
The start was pushed back 30 minutes to allow Falcon fans more time between BG’s home football and hockey games that day. The football team hosts Massachusetts at 2 p.m.
FRESHMEN: Six BG freshmen played against Toronto.
Stephen Baylis, John Schilling, Shane Bednard and Joe McKeown skated at forward; and Chris Pohlkamp and Connor McDonald were used on defense.
“They did fine,” Bergeron said.
“They’re a great group of guys, they’re really nice. They bring a lot of energy to the team,” Pohlkamp said.
DEFENSE: The BG defense is led by junior Sean Walker and sophomore Mark Friedman. Freshmen Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp also figure to be in the lineup most of the time.
“We have to do it by committee,” Bergeron said. “We’re going to have to push each other. I like the group. Overall, the defensemen played well (against Toronto).”
The defense also is relying on senior Jose Delgadillo, red-shirt senior Dajon Mingo and sophomore Braden Pears.
Delgadillo has been up and down during his career, while Mingo is still adjusting to full-time duty on defense after starting his career as a forward, and Pears played in just four games last season.
“(Delgadillo) is focused and he wants to play,” Bergeron said. “Being a senior, he wants this to be a good year.
“(Mingo) looks good. His conditioning is good,” Bergeron added. “His strength is good. Now, he just needs to execute at a high level every day. (Pears) is almost like a freshman, still adjusting to the system, the way we want to play, the competition level.”
FUTURE FALCONS: Two more defensemen have verbally committed to BG. They are Jacob Dalton of Wichita Falls in the North American (Junior) Hockey League and Justin Wells of Sioux Falls in the United State (Junior) Hockey League.
Both are expected to join the Falcons for the 2017-18 season.
Dalton has two goals and five assists and on-ice rating of plus-6 in seven games at Wichita Falls this season. The 5-foot-11, 161 pounder is from Saginaw, Mich. He turned 18 in July.
Wells played for the Cleveland Barons U16 team last season, totaling eight goals and 13 assists in 32 games. He also played in four games for Sioux Falls.
Wells (6-4, 185) is from North Canton and turned 17 in July.