Bowling Green is trying to improve its depth on defense for the second half of the season.
But finding a recruit who will leave his junior team midway through the season to start his college career is difficult, Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said.
The Falcons have had just seven defensemen since sophomore Nolan Valleau signed with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks Aug. 18 and freshman Michael Ferrari decided to leave school just two days before BG’s season-opener Oct. 9.
“We’re having conversations with kids,” Bergeron said. “We’re always looking at possible scenarios of where we could bring people in at Christmas.”
BG has a signed recruits who could join the team after Christmas, but those recruits have a varying amount of junior hockey experience.
Normally, the Falcons prefer recruits to have at least one and sometimes two seasons of junior hockey before coming to BG. To ask those players to leave their current team puts those recruits in a tough position.
NCAA rules prevent players from being brought in during the middle of a semester since school is in session.
“To ask somebody to leave their team at midseason is very difficult, not only to ask, but to have someone do it,” Bergeron said. “The other side of that coin is we’ve got a program to run and seven defensemen from a daily basis, from a competitive standpoint, from a depth standpoint is difficult.
“We’re trying to do right by the situation, by the kid we’re asking to come, by his junior team.”
Valleau was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s all-rookie team last season. Ferrari was expected to contend for regular ice time.
Having just seven defensemen isn’t great, but it can work. Most nights, teams dress 12 forwards and six defensemen for a game. But the Falcons dressed just five defensemen for Sunday’s game at Alaska-Anchorage because of a lower-body injury to Jose Delgadillo.
BG elected to sit Delgadillo for precautionary reasons Sunday, instead using 13 forwards and five defensemen. Delgadillo has since returned to practice and is 100 percent, Bergeron said.
“We’ve kicked over every rock and talked about every situation, every possible scenario and we’re still working through it,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons also are considering moving one of their forwards back to defense. BG already has one former forward on defense, that being Dajon Mingo.
“We’ve considered (giving a forward repetitions on defense) just to get a sense of what it would be like, but that also puts that person in a tough spot,” Bergeron said. “Potentially, it could be an opportunity for somebody outside the lineup to be inside the lineup.”
The Falcons have adjusted their practices to having just seven defensemen.
The team is divided into two groups for practice.
If BG had the maximum of eight or nine defensemen, each group would have at least four defensemen. With one group having just three defensemen, it means one player is always playing back-to-back shifts or going back-to-back in drills.
And instead of working at both ends of the ice in practice, BG has limited some drills to just one end because of having just the three defensemen in the one group.
Sean Walker and Mark Friedman are BG’s two best defensemen and they’ve played more than any of the other five defensemen.
“When you’ve got Sean and Mark eating as many minutes as they are right now, we want to make sure they’ve got ample rest in practice,” Bergeron said. “That’s not to say their (the other five defensemen) rest doesn’t matter.
“But we’ve got work to do in practice.”