Friday Faceoff: Familiar foes to fill BG’s nonleague schedule

By November 7, 2014 September 26th, 2015 Notebooks

Bowling Green’s future nonleague schedules will have a familiar look.

The Falcons’ series with Ohio State and Miami will continue, and they’re adding Western Michigan to the schedule next season.

All three two-game series will be played in a home-and-home format, meaning each team will host a game during the weekend.

BG, Miami, OSU and Western Michigan all were members of the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The CCHA disbanded at the end of the 2012-13 season when college hockey underwent a major realignment.

The Falcons became a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while Ohio State moved to the Big Ten Conference, and Miami and Western joined the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

BG is playing OSU and Miami this season.

“We’ve got Ohio State saying they’ll do it every year,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “Western Michigan seems to be on board right now. Miami, after playing this year, they seem to be wanting to make this happen more on a consistent basis as well.”

NCAA rules allow teams to play 34 games each season. Games against teams outside the continental United States don’t count against the maximum.

BG and the nine other schools in the WCHA play 28 league games each season, leaving six nonleague games.

But with the Falcons traveling to both Alaska (Fairbanks) and Alaska-Anchorage this season, they had a chance to play four extra games.

BG played a series at Clarkson to account for two of the extra games, but couldn’t find an opponent for the two other games. The Falcons and Western hoped to play this season, but it “just didn’t work out,” Bergeron said.

BG, Miami and Western are members of the Mid-American Conference in all other sports. Miami is nationally-ranked almost every season, while Western was ranked earlier this season.

“Miami, Ohio State and Western Michigan are opponents our fan base recognizes and knows from a rivalry standpoint, and our players know they’re going to be play against big-time opponents,” Bergeron said.

Home-and-home series usually draw more fans at each school, rather than the usual two-game weekend series at one site.

“If those three schools can be staples every year and we can get them home-and-home, I think our fans would love that,” Bergeron said.

The home-and-home series also allow BG to lessen its travel costs, in contrast to its higher travel costs for league games.

This season, BG is flying to both Alaska schools, and going by bus to Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Alabama-Huntsville, Bemidji State and Ferris State.

BG uses a sleeper bus for its league series except for Ferris. The Falcons go to Ferris via traditional charter bus.

When using the sleeper bus, the Falcons leave Wednesday night, arriving at their destination the next morning. NCAA rules prevent teams from leaving more than 48 hours before a game begins.

“There are some budget pressures when it comes to conference games,” Bergeron said. “That’s just the way the new league is. We can do it and make it work.

“You have to keep your budget in mind when scheduling nonleague. You don’t want to blow your budget out of the water.”

The Falcons again will visit both Alaska schools next season, allowing for a 38-game schedule.

BG also hosts Clarkson in a two-game series to finish that contract and visits the Rochester (N.Y.) of Institute Technology for a single game. Bergeron also is talking to Canisius about a single game, but nothing has been finalized.

Canisius is in Buffalo. Canisius and RIT are two of the five Atlantic Hockey Schools that are within a reasonable driving distance from BG for a home-and-home series.

The others are Robert Morris in Pittsburgh; Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa; and Niagara, also in Buffalo. BG has a home-and-home series with Robert Morris in January this season.

After the series with Miami, OSU and Western, Bergeron hopes to fill the schedule with the Atlantic Hockey schools each season.

“We have some luxuries that other schools don’t in terms of nonconference,” Bergeron said of BG’s proximity to its possible nonleague opponents. “It makes good business sense.”

Bergeron is trying to avoid long bus trips and plane trips for nonleague games.

The Alaska schools and Huntsville pay an undisclosed stipend to visiting schools to help reduce the cost of travel.

“Clarkson and St. Lawrence are great programs and they’re good, hard-fought games,” Bergeron said. “But it’s just another 12-hour trip that I don’t want our team to have, if we can avoid it.

“If you have to go outside of that plan once in a while, that’s fine. But I don’t want that to be consistent, that we’re traveling 10, 12 hours nonconference when we don’t have to.”

The Falcons play a WCHA series at Bemidji for the first time this season and will travel there by bus. But with the trip being 14 hours, Bergeron said BG might consider flying there the next time they play at Bemidji.

BG has no series planned against former CCHA members Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Michigan and MSU moved to the Big Ten, and Notre Dame joined Hockey East.

“We haven’t talked to them specifically or seriously about any series,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron also said he’s trying to avoid 2-for-1 series and guarantee series.

The 2-for-1s mean two teams will play three games over a number of years, with the bigger budget school hosting two of the three games.

The guarantee series pay smaller budget opponents for playing at the bigger budget school’s arena without the bigger budget school returning to play at the smaller school’s arena.

Bergeron hopes BG’s nonleague schedule will be evenly divided between home and away games each season.

“Ideally, I’d like it to be split right down the middle,” Bergeron said. “That’s the part that becomes difficult. What I’d like to do is to be able to play home-and-homes.

“We know sometimes it may be five and three one way or the other. We don’t want it to be two at home and six on the road. That’s just bad business as far as we’re concerned.”

Schools usually receive the league-game schedule 18 months in advance and then fill in the nonleague dates.

“There’s a little of jockeying that goes on once you get the schedule,” Bergeron said. “It’s basically a rough draft.”

This season, the Falcons were scheduled to play back-to-back weekends at Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech in December. But BG asked Michigan Tech to move its series to an open weekend in January, and Tech agreed.

Changes also are made to the league schedule to help schools accommodate nonleague series.

“Things like that go on all the time,” Bergeron said.

When the CCHA existed, Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame and OSU regularly moved home series to Thursday-Friday or Friday-Sunday to avoid football conflicts.

“What we’re told is to try and stay away from locking in dates for nonconference series until the league schedule is finalized,” Bergeron said.

Bergeron already is working on nonleague games for the 2017-18 season, but the WCHA has only released its league-game schedule through next season.

Most leagues are trying to play nonleague games only in October, but that’s hard for the WCHA because of the travel to Alaska.

This season, Lake Superior and Tech opened the season with a WCHA series Oct. 4-5. The Big Ten doesn’t start league play until the weekend of Nov. 20-21-22, and Ivy League schools didn’t start playing exhibitions until Oct. 24-25.

In the Eastern College Athletic Conference, only Rensselaer, Dartmouth, Harvard and Union have played league games so far.

“We’re trying to go that way, but it’s hard because they (the WCHA) want us to leave some dates open for league play in October,” Bergeron said.

Kevin Gordon

About Kevin Gordon

Kevin joined after wrapping up a 27-year run as the Falcon hockey beat writer for the Sentinel-Tribune. After providing another two years of the Falcon hockey coverage fans had grown to love over the past three decades, Kevin decided to hang up his notebook and is now enjoying the retired life. Please join us by sending Kevin a tweet and thank him for all the time he's dedicated to BGSU hockey: @KGordonBG.