Brandon Hawkins didn’t score a goal during his first 10 games this season.
Once the Bowling Green sophomore left wing ended his drought, he started to score regularly.
He has eight goals and six assists in his last 16 games, including three goals and two assists in last week’s 6-2, 6-2 sweep of Alaska-Anchorage in the Ice Arena.
Hawkins was BG’s leading scorer last season. He played in all 39 games, finishing with a team-best 16 goals and 30 points. He was the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s eighth-leading scorer and led all newcomers in points.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder was named to the WCHA’s all-freshmen team. He also led BG with 135 shots on goal and posted an on-ice rating of +6.
“I made the decision to work hard and compete,” Hawkins said of his recent scoring surge. He had just two assists in those first 10 games. “Before that, I was trying to make it come easy, and it doesn’t work that way. You have to work hard to get rewarded.”
Hawkins’ hard work came on and off the ice, Falcon coach Chris Bergeron said. He stayed on the ice after practice to shoot extra pucks and did extra work in the weight room.
“Coach Schutte (BG assistant coach Barry) was telling me I needed to do those things, and I finally realized I needed to do them,” Hawkins said.
Even when Hawkins wasn’t scoring, he was still getting chances. He leads BG with 87 shots, but Bergeron said Hawkins has been getting better looks at the net of late, and he’s been going to the hard areas of the ice more consistently.
The Macomb, Mich. native had 11 shots against Alaska-Anchorage and an on-ice rating of +3.
“My confidence is up there right now. Hopefully, this will keep going,” Hawkins said. “You just try to simplify your game when you’re not scoring, stick to the basics, and work on the process. I just had to keep shooting, move my feet, all the little things, and work my way through it.”
Hawkins’ first goal finally came in the Ice Arena Nov. 20. The goal, on a rocket from the slot, came in overtime on the power play to give BG a 3-2 victory over Alabama-Huntsville.
He only had to wait four games for his second goal, and he has five goals in the last six games.
Bergeron also said Hawkins’ play on the power play has been better, increasing his chances of scoring. He plays the left point because he has one of the hardest shots on the team, and leads BG with three power-play goals.
Hawkins has taken just four penalties, all minors, and has an on-ice rating of +1 this season. He missed BG’s game Nov. 14 at Michigan Tech because of a lower-body injury. His eight goals are tied for second-most on the team, and his 16 points are in a three-way tie for second on the team.
“You try to keep playing your game and not worry about the pressure to score,” said Hawkins, who has a quick release on his shot, making him even more dangerous.
Hawkins has been a dominant scorer throughout his career. He totaled 65 goals and 45 assists in 128 regular-season and playoff games with the Texas Tornado of the North American (Junior) Hockey League and the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States (Junior) Hockey League.
But there were questions about his willingness to work hard to be successful when he was being recruited. Of course, the 21-year-old isn’t the first or the last player who has had to learn about a higher level of work at the collegiate level.
“He’s constantly learning how to play at this level and how to be an every-day guy,” Bergeron said. “He’s a little more mature, a little older, a little more experienced when it comes to that.
“Every day, there’s growth,” Bergeron added. “He’s no different than anybody else. You put a lot of pressure on him because he led our team in scoring, and he’s capable. He likes that pressure. But with that pressure comes questioning, and why am I not scoring? He wants to score, and he’s good at it. Ultimately, he’s stuck to the process all year long, even when things weren’t going well. He’s getting rewarded for that resiliency.”
Although BG scores by committee, Hawkins is developing into the program’s first big-time scorer it’s had during Bergeron’s five-plus seasons.
Even though it took Hawkins 10 games to score his first goal, the 18th-ranked Falcons are 26-7-6 overall and 11-3-4 in the WCHA, entering home games tonight and Saturday night against No. 17 Michigan Tech (13-7-4, 10-6-2) in the Ice Arena.
“Hawk is a guy who has done it at every level,” Bergeron said. “It’s just a matter of being more consistent, and he’s just a sophomore. It’s important. That’s why we recruited him. We’re just trying to help him become an every-day guy.”
The Falcons are second in the league with 26 points, three behind leader Minnesota State and four ahead of third-place Tech and Ferris State. BG visits Minnesota State next week.
“It helps take some of the pressure off when other guys are scoring and when we’re winning,” Hawkins said. “One player isn’t the reason we’re winning.”
But the Falcons definitely are a better team when Hawkins’ stick is hot.
He’s also doing well academically with a 2.97 grade-point average, including a 3.2 gpa during the fall semester. He’s majoring in communications and plans to work in public relations once his hockey career finishes.
Hawkins is hoping to play professional hockey.
“He’s pretty confident right now,” Bergeron said. “He should be because he deserves to be confident. He was fighting himself a little bit earlier in the year, the first half of the year, in terms of his confidence. Confidence is based on how you play and I think he felt he should have been playing better.”