|Falcons pleased with early practices (10-02-13)|
|Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 02 October 2013 09:33|
Bowling Green's hockey team is pleased with its early practices.
The Falcons will receive an even better indication of where they stand Saturday when they host Wilfrid Laurier University in an exhibition.
Saturday is the first day teams can hold official practices under NCAA rules, although the NCAA allows limited team and individual workouts on the ice before that.
"We feel good about what we've seen so far," said BG coach Chris Bergeron, who is in his fourth season. "It's hard to focus on details without the coaches out there, that's the one thing we bring and, at times, we can bring a push. Coaches can almost manufacture some intensity in practice just by being out there."
Despite the loss of standouts Andrew Hammond in goal and Bobby Shea on defense, the Falcons return 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies from last season.
The Falcons open the season Oct. 11-12 with a nonleague series at 16th-ranked Union. They have six nonleague games in all before starting Western Collegiate Hockey Association play Nov. 1-2 when they host Alaska-Anchorage.
BG was fourth in the WCHA coaches and media polls.
"To this point, it looks like there's a lot more hockey being played," Bergeron said. "We seem to have a little more purpose to what we're doing. Now, we need to bring some detail to that purpose. Saturday's game gives us a benchmark, and we can finally start to evaluate where guys are supposed to be."
BG believes it could be headed for its first winning season overall since 1997, and its first winning record in league play since 2005.
The Falcons also believe a WCHA championship isn't out of the question.
"We get up and down the ice pretty well," Bergeron said. "We want to be a team that pushes the pace and we want to be an offensive group, and I like what we've seen. The depth is showing a little bit, too."
BUILDING: BG is hoping forward Mark Cooper can build on a good freshman season. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder had the usual ups and downs of a rookie, but still saw a regular shift and totaled nine goals and seven assists in 38 games.
"We expect big things from Mark. The thing we have to keep in mind is Mark's a sophomore, and he hasn't played one game this year," Bergeron said. "He's one of the those kids who you want to keep your expectations in check because you're so excited about his potential, but it takes times to get there and to bring that consistent level every single day."
In addition to his size, Cooper skates well, has good skill and good hockey sense. He skated on the power play last season, and could add penalty-killing to his duties this season.
"He has the potential to be the best player on the ice every time he steps out there," Bergeron said. "He's a willing kid who wants to learn and get better. When he's at his best, there are a lot of layers to his game. He's a pretty versatile forward at 6-2."
GOALIES: Bergeron hasn't decided on BG's goaltending plans for the exhibition.
Sophomore Tommy Burke and freshman Tomas Sholl are battling for the No. 1 job.
NEW: Defenseman Nolan Valleau has joined the Falcons, but won't start practicing until the second semester and won't be eligible to play in a game until next season.
He's a full-time student at BG this semester.
Valleau originally committed to Ohio State, but de-committed last spring and came to BG in mid-September. But he didn't meet academic requirements and was ruled ineligible by the NCAA Eligibility Center
The 6-foot, 180 pounder had eight goals and 18 assists for Des Moines and Chicago in the United States (Junior) Hockey League last season.
He turns 21 in November and is from Novi, Mich.
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