Mark Friedman hopes to play in the National Hockey League.
For now, though, the Bowling Green sophomore is focused on providing the Falcons with solid offense and defense from the blueline.
Friedman’s game has been a little inconsistent this season, but he’s played very well of during the Falcons’ recent surge.
Friedman has two goals and eight assists, and on-ice rating of +6 this season in 17 games. He has a point in six of the last seven games, totaling two goals and five assists in that span.
Friedman’s plus-minus has been even or plus in 12 of BG’s 17 games.
His play is one reason the Falcons, ranked 14th nationally, are 9-3-5 overall and 6-2-4 in the league. BG is allowing just 2.0 goals per game — best in the WCHA and tied for ninth nationally.
BG is 6-1-4 in its last 12 games, including a 5-0-2 record in its last seven games, as it prepares to finish the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule this weekend at Bemidji State.
“I’m trying to find my game right now,” Friedman said. “I didn’t skate much this summer. I took some time off after playing a lot last year. I wanted to get my body to recover. It took me a couple of games to get into a rhythm.”
Friedman generates offense because of his smooth skating, and his ability to shoot and pass the puck well.
His skating enables him to regularly join the rush — making him a threat every time the Falcons have the puck. He’s second on the team with 46 shots.
“Right now, my game is good. I’m playing better in all three zones, but it can still be better,” Friedman said. “I’m never satisfied with where my game is at.”
But Friedman also is working to improve his defense, calling it “a work in progress.”
Friedman is only 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, so he’s not going to be a big body checker, but he’s still trying to be a physical presence with good body position.
“College hockey is a tough game, a lot of hitting, very physical,” Friedman said. “For a smaller guy like me, it’s a lot harder to play when it’s physical. But I love the physical play and I want to be physical.
“I’m not going to smoke guys, but I try to have a good, active stick and separate them from the puck. You have to get one or the other, the puck or the body. It’s more often the puck than the body for me.”
Friedman strives to do the so-called little things well defensively. He leads the team with 31 blocked shots.
He plays an average of 26-31 minutes per game. He skates on the power-play and penalty-killing units, and is used in every situation, whether BG is ahead or behind.
“It’s the in-zone stuff, having a good active stick, knowing where your guy is the whole time, eliminating your guy, having your stick on the puck,” he said.
Friedman’s mix of offense and defense Nov. 28 led to his scoring his second goal of the season in a 4-3 overtime win over Northern Michigan.
He broke up a play in the defensive zone and then joined the rush, scoring with a one-timer on John Schilling’s pass to complete an odd-man rush.
“As the saying goes, good defense creates good offense,” Friedman said. “Having a good defensive game will help the offensive part of my game. You have to be able to defend.”
Friedman was a third-round NHL draft pick of the Flyers in June 2014 — just three months before coming to BG. He was the 86th player selected.
He has attended the Flyers’ prospects camp the last two summers.
“I just went there to soak it up like a sponge and be a guy who wanted to learn about what it takes to be a pro,” Friedman said.
Friedman has been a regular on defense since arriving at BG. The Toronto, Ontario native was named to the All-WCHA rookie team last season, totaling two goals and 17 assists with an on-ice rating of +7 in 39 games.
“He’s trying to be a professional, that’s what he wants to be, so he’s taking a professional approach every day,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “He’s just better at that right now than he was at the end of last year. He’s more mature this season.
“He’s a guy who is not afraid of hard work and getting after it,” Bergeron added.
Friedman was a bit of an unknown as a freshman last season. This season, opponents are finishing every check on him and trying to get him off his game mentally.
Friedman turns 20 years old on Christmas Day.
“Now, he’s a target,” Bergeron said. “He’s not sneaking up on anyone now. He’s growing up. He’s a young guy. He’s still figuring things out. He’s doing well. It’s nice to see him on the scoresheet because that’s where he wants to be.
“We don’t necessarily evaluate his game on (goals and assists),” Bergeron added. “I’m happy for him to get rewarded because he’s a worker. He’s an everyday guy. “
Friedman has been a point-producer throughout his career, including two seasons in the United States (Junior) Hockey League with Waterloo. He had 20 goals and 67 assists and on-ice rating in 132 games.
He committed to BG three years before starting his college career.
“He still looks the same skating,” Bergeron said. “His puck skills are still really good. He can shoot the puck. Physically, he’s in the best shape of his life. He’s in great condition and he’s strong.”
Friedman tries to arrive at practice an hour before it starts, instead of 30 minutes as he’s done in the past. He’ll stretch or ride a stationary bike before practice.
“I need to come to the rink with a pro mentality and try to get better every day,” Friedman said. “If I want to play in the NHL, I have to do the little things well to get me to the next level. I’m trying to take a better approach on how to be a pro every day.”
Friedman isn’t sure when his pro career will start, although rumors already say he could sign after this season. He has a 2.9 grade-point average in sport management.
“I can’t think too much about the future, but it’s in the back of my mind,” Friedman said of signing with the Flyers.
“I can’t let it affect where I’m at right now. I’m at Bowling Green, and I’m in a good spot. I’m playing good minutes, power play, penalty kill, every situation, that’s going to help me with my game.”