Bowling Green finally has a full and healthy roster.
The Falcons were at full strength for the first time this season last weekend at Lake Superior.
They were short-handed on defense during the first half after sophomore defenseman Nolan Valleau left school in August to sign with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, and freshman defenseman Matthew Ferrari quit the team for personal reasons two days before BG’s Oct. 9 season-opener.
Injuries caused other players to miss playing time.
But the Falcons are healthy now, and freshmen Jordan Ernst and Adam Smith joined the team during the holiday break to add depth on defense.
With a full and healthy team, BG coach Chris Bergeron expects the competition for playing time to increase, both in practice and in games.
“The internal competition we’ve been talking about since we got here, it makes people understand that you have to play well or other people will play,” Bergeron said. “That’s a good spot to be in, that creates difficult conversations and it creates difficult decisions.
“That’s what big-time programs have. You have tough decisions on a nightly basis, and that’s what it’s supposed to be — people earning being in the lineup and people earning ice time when they’re in the lineup.”
FRIENDS OR FOES: BG’s game Saturday at Miami is a reunion for three Columbus area natives who are close friends — Falcon freshman defenseman Connor McDonald, and Miami freshmen forwards Jack Roslovic and Kiefer Sherwood.
All three played for the Ohio Blue Jackets minor hockey program.
McDonald and Sherwood first became teammates when they were approximately 6 or 7 years old before moving into the Blue Jackets program. They also were teammates last season with Youngtown in the United States (Junior) Hockey League.
McDonald is from Westerville, Sherwood is from New Albany and Roslovic is from Columbus.
“We’re looking forward to playing against each other,” McDonald said. “The game is important for both teams, but it’s also for bragging rights for the three of us.”
The three stay in touch during the season, and then hang out together and work out together during the summer.
The friendship also includes Kiefer’s brother, Kole, who played minor hockey for the Blue Jackets. He’s playing major juniors this season for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. Kole Sherwood originally committed to Boston University, but signed with the NHL Blue Jackets in July.
McDonald, Kiefer Sherwood and Roslovic will have a rematch in BG Feb. 12.
MIAMI: The RedHawks are 6-11-3 overall and 2-8-2 in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. They were hit hard by graduation and underclass losses to pro hockey. Miami is 1-6-3 in its last 10 games, the win coming Jan. 3 at home against No. 20 Rensselaer.
“They’ve got good players,” Bergeron said. “They don’t have bad years. They have good years and great years. That’s where we want to get. They’ve got some talent. If they’re right, they’re really good.”
Scoring has been a challenge for Miami, which is averaging just 2.10 goals per game. Three of the team’s top four scoring forwards are freshmen.
However, the RedHawks are allowing just 2.85 goals per game, and goalies Ryan McKay and Jay Williams have combined for a 2.80 goals-against average and an .895 percentage. McKay has a 2.57 goals-against and a .905 save percentage in 17 games.
“I really like their goaltending, and they defend well,” Bergeron said.
Miami leads the nation in penalty-killing at 94.2 percent.
STAR POWER: Roslovic was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets last summer. He leads Miami in scoring with 18 points, including a team-best nine goals, in 20 games.
Miami sophomore defenseman Louie Belpedio recently played for the United States in the World Junior Championships. He was a third-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in 2014.
RedHawk junior forward Anthony Louis, who has three goals and 10 assists in 20 games, was a sixth-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013.
Miami senior forward Sean Kuraly was a fifth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2011. He has 39 goals and 38 assists in 133 career games.
Kiefer Sherwood has three goals and five assists in 18 games.
SPECIAL TEAMS: BG is fifth in the WCHA in special teams net with a +1. The statistic includes all power-play and short-handed goals for and against.
Bemidji State leads the league at +7, followed by Minnesota State +5, Michigan Tech +4 and Lake Superior +3. In league games only, BG is fourth at +4.
“Our special teams have been like our team, very inconsistent,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons evaluate the season in eight-game segments, with last weekend’s series at Lake Superior ending the third eight-game segment.
The power play was 1 of 24 in the first segment, 9 of 32 in the second and 4 of 32 in the third.
The penalty-killing was 25 of 29 in the first segment, 26 of 33 in the second and 20 of 24 in the third.
For the season, the power play is fifth in the league at (16.7 percent, 14 of 88) and the penalty-killing is sixth (82.8 percent, 71 of 86).
ROAD WARRIORS: The Falcons are 18-9-4 on the road over the last two seasons, including a 7-4 record this season.
BG, however, is 0-16-1 at Miami since a 4-3 victory in Oxford March 9, 2001.
STATS: BG sophomore Mark Friedman is the top scoring defensemen in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He has 13 points, totaling three goals and 10 assists in 24 games.
BG senior forward Mark Cooper has nine goals, best on the team and fifth-best in the WCHA.