|Falcon hockey has high expectations (09-13-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Friday, 13 September 2013 09:34|
Bowling Green's hockey team believes it is ready for its best season in recent memory.
The Falcons think they have the talent and the depth to win consistently and perhaps even challenge for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
They've steadily improved during head coach Chris Bergeron's first three seasons, and they return 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies from last season.
Even though BG returns 91 percent of its goals and points from last season, it still must replace two key standouts - goalie Andrew Hammond and defenseman Bobby Shea.
Despite finishing 15-21-5 overall and 10-15-3 for ninth place in the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the Falcons played well during a large part of the second half last season. BG lost two one-goal games at 12th-ranked Notre Dame in the second round of the CCHA playoffs.
The Falcons haven't had a winning record overall since 1997 or a winning record in league play since 2005.
"The expectations are changing," Bergeron said. "The players have been talking the right talk for the last couple years.
"Now, we need to make those expectations real. We need to make those expectations mandatory where anything less isn't acceptable. But you won't know how the players are going to react until someone starts to push back."
Minnesota State-Mankato and Ferris State figure to be the two top teams in the WCHA entering the season. MSU was 10th in College Hockey News' preseason national poll.
"The players have come up with good team and individual goals, but it's easy to put it on paper or say it out loud," Bergeron said. "It's that every day process that is difficult, that's what we've struggled with. At times, there's been some pretty good purpose to our game. We've had other times where there wasn't. We need to find that consistency."
START: The Falcons host Wilfrid Laurier in an exhibition Oct. 5 and open the season Oct. 11-12 at Union in a nonleague series.
The NCAA's starting date for official practice is Oct. 5.
Teams have been allowed to have their coaches and four players on the ice for individual skill work. Starting next week, the coaches and entire team can be on the ice for two hours a week.
The Falcons have been working out off the ice and holding captains practices since returning to school in late August. The coaches are not allowed to watch those practices under NCAA rules.
CONDITION: Bergeron said the players returned to school in good shape overall.
"I don't think there's as much building going on in terms of strength or conditioning in September as there has been in the past," Bergeron said. "We're maintaining and getting ready for the rigors of a long season versus in the past we've been trying to build strength and build levels of conditioning."
Although Bergeron declined to single out individual players, he said most of the sophomores and juniors have done a good job of continuing to develop physically.
"They're transitioning into a hockey player-athlete's body, meaning they feel good about where they're at physically off the ice," Bergeron said. "There's a good number of guys who did that and we're anxious to see what that change in their physical look is going to do to their game. We think it's going to help their game.
"To be successful at this level, you need to make changes in what you're doing with your lifestyle ... what you eat, your sleep habits ... and guys are willing to change."
RECRUITS: BG has received verbal commitments from forwards Mitch McLain and Michael Houle. The two aren't expected to join BG before the 2015-16 season.
McLain, who is 6-foot, 190 pounds, finished last season with Langley in the British Columbia (Junior) Hockey League where he had 14 goals and 18 assists in 54 games.
McLain started last season playing high school hockey in Brainerd, Minn. He is from Baxter, Minn. and turns 20 in December.
House (6-2, 150) is playing midget hockey for Detroit Honeybaked.
The 17-year-old is the cousin of Falcon recruit Brandon Hawkins, who will join BG for the 2014-15 season. He is from Macomb Township (Mich.)
Honeybaked's coach is former Falcon and BGHS graduate Steve Dickinson.
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