BOWLING GREEN — At first glance, the Bowling Green State University hockey team doesn’t seem to be in a position very different from at this time last season.
At the “halfway” point of last season the Falcons were 6-11-3, while this year’s team returns to conference play with a 5-10-5 mark.
But there are differences that point to improvement in this year’s BG squad as the Falcons return to Central Collegiate Hockey Association today at Michigan. Faceoff at Yost Arena is set for 7:05 p.m., and the contest will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
“Going in to Yost is never easy — and the last time we were there, we didn’t play well,” said BG coach Chris Bergeron, whose team has lost six straight road games to Michigan. “Hopefully, mentally our guys are wrapping their arms around the fact that physically we are fine, and we will have a full week before we play again.
“So let’s just make sure we’re mentally ready, go in there and compete.”
One difference from last year is the step forward BG has taken in conference play. At this point last season the Falcons were last in the 11-team CCHA with a 1-11-2 record that garnered just six points, putting them far behind the rest of the field.
This season, Bowling Green is 2-7-3 and has 10 points. The Falcons are tied for 10th with Northern Michigan, which has played two more games, and just three behind ninth-place Michigan State, which has played one more game than BG.
Another difference is in the caliber of competition. Last year’s squad opened with three wins in four games against Connecticut and Alabama-Huntsville, two of the lesser lights in college hockey.
After that 3-0-1 start, the Falcons found the sledding in the CCHA much tougher and never really got rolling until a late February run that eventually propelled them to the semifinals of the CCHA Tournament at Joe Louis Arena.
This year Bowling Green opened with nationally ranked Union College and also played twice against Niagara.
While the Falcons lost those season-opening games against Union, they rebounded with a home win and a road tie against the nationally ranked Purple Eagles.
Sophomore Ryan Carpenter leads BG with six goals and 13 points, while sophomore Dajon Mingo is close behind with 12 points thanks to four goals and eight assists. Sophomore Dan DeSalvo has a team-best 11 assists.
Senior goaltender Andrew Hammond has a 2.84 goals-against average. His shutout win against Niagara on Dec. 29 was his sixth career shutout, one shy of the school record.
Now Bowling Green enters today’s contest against the Wolverines on a three-game unbeaten streak. And Bergeron hopes his team’s improvement will lead to increased success.
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