Two Bowling Green freshmen defensemen are quickly adjusting to college hockey.
Connor McDonald and Chris Pohlkamp are expected to see regular ice time this season.
Both could be in the lineup this weekend when the Falcons battle Ohio State in a home-and-home series.
McDonald and Pohlkamp both saw a regular shift and skated on the special teams during BG’s 4-3 exhibition victory Saturday over the University of Toronto in the Ice Arena.
“Seeing the way they played Saturday against a pretty good team, they’re starting point is really good,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said.
Bergeron has said both are expected to be in the lineup “more often than not” this season.
Pohlkamp and McDonald are older and physically stronger, with Pohlkamp having turned 20 in June. McDonald turns 20 on Oct. 24.
The two are being counted upon even more after classmate and defenseman Matthew Ferrari left the program Wednesday. Ferrari’s departure left the Falcons with just seven defensemen.
“You focus on habits,” Bergeron said when asked how the team is helping McDonald and Pohlkamp adjust. “You focus on making sure they’re ready for every day in practice, and they’re ready to compete and be at a level every day.”
“It’ll bleed over into games, and it’s just a matter of when that happens. We all know practice is different from games, and we all know it’s a different reality when games come and there’s an opponent.“
McDonald is 6-foot-1, 181 pounds, while Pohlkamp is 5-10, 193.
Defense is the toughest position to play for freshmen because of the wide range of skills required, and opponents usually are older, bigger, stronger and faster.
But freshmen traditionally have played well on defense during Bergeron’s first five seasons, including Mark Friedman and Nolan Valleau last season, and Sean Walker two seasons ago.
Mike Sullivan and Connor Kucera, who were seniors last season, also played well as freshman. Marcus Perrier had a solid first season as a teammate of Sullivan and Kucera before turning pro after his junior season.
“It’s hard to be better than some of those other guys because of where they started,” Bergeron said. “I like where (McDonald and Pohlkamp) are starting from.”
BUSY: The Falcons start the season by playing five games in nine days.
After opening the season against OSU, BG visits Western Michigan Tuesday, Canisius Oct. 16 and the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology Oct. 17. Canisius is in Buffalo, N.Y.
Western begins the season this weekend against Ferris State in a home-and-home series.
“It seems like a bunch, but there’s no reason our guys can’t be ready. They’ve waited all this time to play games,” Bergeron said. “Why not take advantage of it?”
To make sure the Falcons are fresh for all of the games, the team’s practices the day before each game will be light.
“They’re ready to play a bunch of games and we’ll taper down practices to make sure they’re not leaving their best games in practice,” Bergeron said.
Following the trip to Canisius and RIT, the Falcons will be off Oct. 23-24 before opening the WCHA portion of their schedule Oct. 30-31 at Alaska-Anchorage.
WATCH LIST: BG senior Tommy Burke was one of 20 goalies named to the watch list for the Mike Richter Award, presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding goalie. The list was announced Thursday.
SIDELINED: BG forward Stephen Baylis will sit out the first six games under NCAA rules, the result of having Canadian Major Junior A experience. He was the media’s choice to win the WCHA Newcomer of the Year Award.
EXPERIENCE: The Falcons return 103 of their 119 goals from last season, fourth-most in the nation. Minnesota State is second at 107, while Michigan Tech is fifth with 99.
Ferris State returns 80.4 percent of its points from last season, the 10th most of any BUCKEYES: OSU returns nine forwards, five defensemen and three goalies from last season when it was 14-19-3 overall and 5-11-1 for fifth-place in the six-team Big Ten Conference.
This season, the Buckeyes have 10 freshmen, seven sophomores, seven juniors and three seniors as they begin their third season under coach Steve Rohlik.
BUCKEYES II: The Buckeyes were next-to-last in the Big Ten Conference coaches poll. OSU was a 4-0 winner over Brock University of St. Catharines, Ontario in their Canadian exhibition last Saturday.
OSU’s top returning scorer is senior forward Anthony Greco, who led the team with 15 goals last season and was second with 23 points.
“There’s lot of talent on the front end. Their forwards are really good,” Bergeron said. “They have some defensemen who want to get in the play and be involved offensively. This is a mobile group.”
Juniors Christian Frey and Matt Tomkins return in goal. Frey had a 3.03 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 24 games. Tomkins had a 3.28 goals-against and an .876 save percentage in 14 games.