Chris Bergeron would prefer to start the season with two nonleague games instead of a Canadian exhibition, the Bowling Green Falcon head coach said Tuesday.
Bergeron said he’s unsuccessfully tried the last three seasons to schedule a regular-season home-and-home, non-league series during the first official weekend teams are allowed to be on the ice under NCAA rules. Teams are allowed limited time on the ice before that.
The question of playing a Canadian exhibition came up after the Falcons’ Saturday exhibition against the University of Windsor ended in a brawl. Three players from each team received game-disqualification penalties for fighting, meaning they’ll sit out their teams’ next contest.
Falcon forwards Mitch McLain, Jakob Reichert and defenseman Mark Friedman will sit out BG’s regular-season open Friday at Bemidji State. They’ll be eligible to play in the series finale Saturday. The three Windsor players sat out Sunday’s exhibition at Michigan.
Just six teams played regular-season games last weekend. Alabama-Huntsville visited Ferris State in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series, Michigan Tech visited Minnesota-Duluth in a non-league series and Army had a non-league game at Colgate. Forty-one schools played an exhibition, with 40 of those coming against Canadian schools.
The result of the exhibition and the individual statistics don’t count on BG’s record.
“I don’t want my initial thought, as we sit here right now, to deter playing the exhibition game,” said Bergeron, who is in his seventh season. “But I do think we, as (NCAA) Division I coaches, should be considering that first weekend as an open weekend to play games.”
Bergeron prefers to play a nonleague home-and-home series the first weekend, but isn’t opposed to playing WCHA league games the first weekend.
The geographic makeup of the WCHA and the league’s switch to having all playoff games at campus sites makes scheduling difficult. The change in the playoff format added one week to the season.
Bergeron doubted he’d be able to find any non-league teams willing to play a series the first weekend next season, meaning the Falcons will have another Canadian exhibition.
“Playing games is better than not playing games,” Bergeron said.
The Falcons originally were scheduled to start this season with road trips to Alaska (Fairbanks) and Bemidji, but the Alaska series was moved to later in the season. Had BG opened with those two series, it probably would have had to spend the second week in Minnesota to ease the travel for the Bemidji series.
RECAP: Saturday’s brawl capped a physical, emotional and intense game between the Falcons and Windsor. The teams combined for 44 penalties for 168 minutes.
“I’m not blaming anybody,” Bergeron said. “We’re as much at fault for what happened Saturday as anybody. There’s two teams out there. Both teams playing really hard, trying their best. There was frustration, building, building, building. Obviously, it boiled over.”
The brawl happened, in part, because both teams were coming onto the ice for the end of the game. Bergeron wished he could have held his team on the bench to help prevent the brawl. The teams also crossed paths on the ice, helping fuel the tensions.
“I do think there’s a thought on both teams there’s no repercussions as much as you warn these guys,” Bergeron said of the exhibition designation. “We just learned a tough lesson the hard way, that you absolutely do get suspended, and you’re held accountable for your actions, just like you would any other game.”
Bergeron said he would play Windsor again next season, despite the brawl, if BG needs any exhibition.
LINEUP: The Falcons haven’t decided on their travel roster for the Bemidji series, but WCHA rules limit teams to 22 players. Teams always take two goalies meaning the Falcons would only have 17 non-goalies available, one less than normal if Friedman, McLain and Reichert all made the trip.
Teams dress a maximum of 18 skaters and two goalies for each game.
“We will not take all three guys who got DQs because we will not play one short,” Bergeron said. “We’ve got healthy bodies. That would be irresponsible to the group to play one short when you’ve got healthy bodies. I’m not going to do that.”
Although the travel roster hasn’t been decided, it’s reasonable to assume Friedman and McLain may make the trip to Bemidji. Friedman was a first-team all-league selection last season, while McLain is one of BG’s best two-way forwards.
INJURIES: Bergeron said sophomore defenseman Chris Pohlkamp is “in the conversation” to play at Bemidji. He missed the Windsor contest for precautionary reasons, the result of offseason shoulder surgery.
The physical nature of the exhibition made the decision not to play Pohlkamp a good one since he is one of BG’s most physical players.
TV: The Falcons will appear on both of the WCHA’s TV games this season on the American Sports Network.
Both games are on Friday, and the starting times for both have been moved back 90 minutes to 8:37 p.m. — Jan. 6 at home against Bemidji and Jan. 27 at Ferris State.
TIME CHANGES: The starting time for two of BG’s Friday home games have been moved from 7:07 p.m. to 8:07 p.m. — Oct. 21 against Ohio State and Nov. 4 against Ferris.