Sean Walker probably could play the perfect game and never be noticed.
The Bowling Green junior isn’t flashy.
But he’s a defenseman any team would love to have because he plays consistently well.
The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder mixes solid defense and offense into one of the best packages in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. This season, he’s added the responsibility of being the Falcons’ captain.
Walker is one of the reasons BG is ninth nationally in goals allowed entering this weekend’s series against Alabama-Huntsville in the Ice Arena.
Faceoff Friday and Saturday nights is 7:07.
The Falcons, ranked 15th nationally, are allowing just 1.91 goals-per game. BG is 5-3-3 overall and 2-2-2 in the league.
“There is so much to like about his game,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He’s an all-around defenseman. The only thing he lacks is size and he makes up for that in his mind-set he’s going to out-compete you.”
In addition to defending well, Walker is a good skater with good offensive skills to enable him to play on the power play. He’s trying to join the rush more often, providing BG with another offensive threat.
Walker has seven goals and 17 assists, and on-ice rating of plus 24 in 88 games.
This season, he has three assists and on-ice rating of plus 5 in 11 games.
“I’m a lot more confident this year,” said Walker, who also played well his first two seasons when he skated a regular shift.
His play is even more impressive this season because he’s playing mega minutes. Walker and sophomore Mark Friedman are playing an average of 26-31 minutes per since BG has just seven game-eligible defensemen.
Walker and Friedman usually are playing hard minutes. They’re usually used against the other team’s best players, and they’re skating on the power-play and penalty-killing units. They’re used in every situation, whether BG is ahead or behind.
The extended minutes and responsibility have brought a little inconsistency into his game this season, but he’s played well overall.
“The minutes don’t affect me mentally,” he said. “I try to stay pretty level headed. “We have a game plan and if we stick to it, everything will go right. We all have to have the mind-set that we’re not going to let things get us off our game.
“That’s a big part of the game, not letting anything affect you the rest of the game.”
But the minutes are hard on Walker’s body because he is physical. He’s known for his big hits in open ice. He’s always been in good shape, but he made sure he was in even better shape this season.
He worked out 5-6 days a week over the summer in his hometown of Keswick, Ontario, located north of Toronto. His workouts included speed, power and strength training, and tons of conditioning and resistance training.
Since returning to BG for the school year in August, he’s maintained his conditioning and health with the help of strength coach Kenny Goodrich and trainer Dan Fischer.
“I’m trying to take care of my body a little more this year, just eating right and doing all of the little things that need to be done,” Walker said.
Walker’s been physical, but he’s trying to be more disciplined. He had 160 penalty minutes his first two seasons, including 85 last season. But he has just five minors for 10 minutes this season.
“I’m trying to cut my penalty minutes in half this season, that’s one of my goals,” Walker said.
A hitter like Walker will always take some penalties, especially in an era where even big and powerful, but legal hits are called penalties in the name of player safety. But he’s attempting to reduce the number of hooking, holding and tripping penalties he takes.
“Those penalties usually come because you’re out of position, and I’m trying to make sure I’m in position every time,” Walker said.
Walker’s also thrived, even though he’s BG’s captain. Wearing the ‘C’ on the jersey often brings extra pressure and higher expectations. The captain also serves as a liaison between the players and the coaching staff.
“I like that responsibility and I like guys looking up to me,” Walker said.
Walker was overlooked during the recruiting process and didn’t verbally commit to the Falcons until February, 2013 — just six months before his first semester at BG started. Late recruits usually aren’t expected to be major impact players.
But Walker has played well since Day 1 with the Falcons.
He was a good defensemen in his two seasons with the Newmarket Hurricanes in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He then flourished and became even better at BG.
He’s hoping to play pro hockey once his college career is finished.
“There are more layers to Sean that we were even expecting,” Bergeron said. “That’s a tribute to him. He’s a worker.”
Walker, a supply chain management major, improved his grade-point average from 2.8 as a freshman to 3.0 after his sophomore year.
“I try to be the best I can be in everything I do,” Walker said.
“He’s one of those guys who is an example of what we want to be as a program in terms of the daily approach (on and off the ice),” Bergeron said. “He’s willing. He’s willing to come out of his comfort zone and try harder than he’s ever tried before because that’s what’s expected. Now, he expects that from himself.”