Kevin Dufour didn’t worry when he wasn’t scoring goals earlier this season.
The Bowling Green senior has produced enough offense during his career to know the goals would come if he continued to work hard to create scoring chances.
But Dufour didn’t plan on having to wait 12 games to score his first goal this season. Once he scored for the first time Nov. 12 at Northern Michigan, the goals haven’t stopped coming. He has three goals in the last three games, and has been one of BG’s best players during its recent hot streak.
The left winger has three goals and two assists in the last four games going into this weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association series against Alaska-Anchorage in the Ice Arena.
His first goal came on a wraparound from the right side of the crease on a shot that went through the legs of NMU goalie Atte Tolvanen.
“It’s not like I didn’t have any chances,” Dufour said of those first 11 games when he had five assists. “I would watch videos and see I would get chances. I was happy with the way I was playing, and I knew it would come at some point if I kept working.”
Dufour has 39 goals and 28 assists in 127 games with the Falcons, including 14 goals in 40 games last season. He has three goals and seven assists this season, to go along with just one minor penalty and an on-ice rating of +1.
“I feel pretty good about the way I’m playing,” said Dufour, who has a 3.5 grade-point average in finance.
Dufour has added consistency to his game this season. His play was up and down during his first three seasons, and he was even a healthy scratch last season. But this season, he’s played well in most of the games, eliminating the peaks and valleys.
“It’s the most consistent season I’ve had so far effort-wise and in practice as well,” Dufour said. “I’ve changed my way of seeing things. Before, I would worry about stuff I couldn’t control. This year, I just try to control what I can control. Sometimes, I would let (the outside stuff) get in my head before games and even during practice. Now, I just have fun and play, and whatever happens, happens.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Dufour is tough to handle below the top of the circles in the offensive zone because of his skating, size and skill. Dufour and his linemate, senior center Pierre-Luc Mercier, control the puck for extended periods, enabling them to create scoring chances.
Mercier, who is 6-1, 187, also has a good mix of skills. When Dufour and Mercier are playing well, they’re almost impossible to defend. Mercier has four goals and two assists in 14 games.
“What I like about Kevin is his effort has been good,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “From a coaching perspective, the inconsistency, with his effort, at times, over the course of his first three years, it’s gotten better. There’s no doubt about it. This year, his effort’s been really strong.”
The chemistry of Dufour and Mercier on the ice carries over from their friendship off the ice. The two played against each other once in minor hockey, but they didn’t become friends until they met at BG. They’ve been roommates since they first came to school.
“We’re basically brothers,” Dufour said. “We got along right away. We are really good friends. He’s a really good guy.”
Both are Quebec natives. Dufour is from Quebec City and Mercier is from Montreal. The French-speaking Dufour and Mercier have taken Falcon freshman and Montreal native Frederic Letourneau under the wing to help ease his adjustment to college hockey.
Like many Quebec natives, Dufour planned on playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and perhaps Canadian college hockey. But once he starting learning about U.S. college hockey, the more he thought it was a viable option.
BG assistant coach Ty Eigner discovered Dufour and Mercier at a prospect camp in Montreal. Dufour committed to the Falcons first, while Mercier was a late recruit. He committed to the Falcons in July, 2013 — just a month before starting his BG career.
They’re the first Quebec natives to play for the Falcons in more than 30 years. Shortly after Mercier committed, Eigner called Dufour to tell him about Mercier. Eigner also gave Dufour Mercier’s phone number and told him they probably would be roommates.
“I didn’t even know about Bowling Green or college hockey in the states,” Dufour said. “But I made the trip (to BG) and learned to like it the more I learned.”
The Falcons have won six of their last seven games to improve to 6-7-1 overall and 5-3 in the WCHA following starts of 0-6-1 overall and 0-2 in the league. The play of Dufour and Mercier is one of the major reasons why. The two have been linemates for a large part of their Falcon careers.
“I don’t necessarily want (Dufour and Mercier) attached at the hip, but they’ve played a bunch of hockey together, and they’re good friends,” Bergeron said. “When 2 (Mercier) and 10 (Dufour) are doing their thing, we’re a good team. They’ve been going a bunch, no doubt about it.”
Dufour has been a streaky scorer throughout his career, and his recent success could ignite another hot streak. He started his sophomore and junior seasons with a hot stick. As a sophomore, he scored a goal in each of the first six games and in seven of the first eight contests, totaling nine goals in that span. Later that season, he had a goal in three out of four games at one point during the second half. Last season, Dufour scored a goal in six of the first eight games.
“It’s nice to see Kevin rewarded for what has been a pretty good start to his senior year, other than the results,” Bergeron said. “Hopefully, the indications are he’ll continue to heat up, and the pucks will continue to go in for him.”