Notebook: Seniors helped fuel turnaround of BG program

By March 6, 2015 September 26th, 2015 Features

Bowling Green’s Senior Night is Saturday.

Adam Berkle, Dan DeSalvo, Rusty Hafner, Connor Kucera, Ted Pletsch and Mike Sullivan will be recognized before the Falcons play Alabama-Huntsville at 7:07.

They’ve helped fuel the turnaround of the BG program.

BG is 19-10-5 overall and 15-8-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. It already has clinched third place in the league entering its final series of the regular season.

The Falcons are ranked 13th nationally and in contention for their first NCAA playoff berth since 1990.

The six formed the first recruiting class for head coach Chris Bergeron, and assistant coaches Ty Eigner and Barry Schutte.

Bergeron’s first recruit was Cam Wojtala, who was a senior last season.

“From a program perspective, they’re leaving Bowling Green better than they found it,” said Bergeron, who is in his fifth season. “That is something we talk to these kids about during the recruiting process.

“That isn’t something necessarily that needs to be at the top of their list of priorities while they are here, but we want it to be on the list of priorities. These guys are definitely leaving it better than they found it.”

BG has improved its overall win total in five straight seasons after going 5-25-6 overall and 4-18-6 in the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association during the 2009-10 season.

The class included two other players who left after last season to sign pro contracts — forward Ryan Carpenter signed with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, and defenseman Marcus Perrier signed with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays.

The class joined BG for Bergeron’s second season, which came just two years after the Falcon program was nearly cut by the university for budgetary reasons.

“They took a chance on a plan and we’re very proud of them for that,” Bergeron said. “There’s lot of reasons they hold a very important spot in this program’s history.

They all have meant a great deal to this program. They’ll be in our thoughts for a long time.”

Berkle and DeSalvo have been key players offensively throughout their careers, and Kucera and Sullivan have been regulars on defense since coming to BG. All four have contributed to the power-play and penalty-killing units.

Hafner, a defensemen, and Pletsch, a forward, haven’t played as much during the last two seasons, but they’ve remained hard workers and good teammates.

“We established relationships with each and every one of them,” Bergeron said. “We articulated what the plan was and where we felt each of them fit into that plan. They all had a pretty good opportunity when they first got here in terms of on the ice.

“They all wanted a chance to play and to play early. They’ve helped us change the whole culture to more of a winning, positive atmosphere.”

The seniors already have won four league playoff series, and played in the WCHA and CCHA semifinals.

“That’s pretty good stuff,” Bergeron said.

GOALTENDING: Sophomore Carmine Guerriero is UAH’s No. 1 goalie. He has a 2.58 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 26 games.

He faces an average of 37.4 shots every 60 minutes.

“Their goaltending was good last year. It’s potentially great this year,” Bergeron said. “He’s been outstanding. His save percentage is really strong.”

The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder had 41 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory at BG last season.

STATS: Freshman forward Max McHugh is UAH’s leading scorer with 21 points. He has 10 goals and 11 assists in 34 games.

Junior defenseman Frank Misuraca has six goals and six assists in 34 games.

UAH is next-to-last in the 10-team WCHA in goals scored (1.74 goals per game) and eighth in goals allowed (3.18 gpg).

DEFENSE: The Falcons still are looking to improve their team defense as they’ve allowed 19 goals in their last five games.

In addition, goalies Tommy Burke and Chris Nell have combined to stop just 82 of 98 shots (.837 save percentage) in the last four games.

OFFENSE: BG has scored three of fewer goals in 12 of its last 14 games, including seven games with two or fewer.

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.