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BOWLING GREEN — The trip from Canton, Mich., a western suburb of Detroit, to the Bowling Green State University Ice Arena is a fairly straight shot.
From Canton it isn’t very hard to find the highway and start traveling south, and BG is only 80 miles away.
But the route freshman Dajon Mingo took from his home in Canton to join the Falcons hockey team was anything but a straight shot. Not only did it involve travel to Wyoming, Alaska, and Iowa, it also included several roadblocks along the way.
The first difficulty nearly scuttled Mingo’s journey before it started.
“I was going quit my senior year of high school,” he said. “There weren’t a lot of scouts talking to me, so I was going to quit and play other sports.
“Then a junior team called the Yellowstone Quake called me. I kind of wanted to get away from home, and Wyoming was far away from home.”
After a season with the Tier III-level Quake, Mingo moved even farther west and played with the Kenai River Brown Bears (Tier II) based in Soldotna, Alaska. The next year Mingo moved up the ranks and traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to play in the United States Hockey League (Tier I) — and things began to take off.
“Everyone talked about how hard the league was, and when I got up there it was hard to get up to speed at first,” Mingo said. “But I got used to the speed.”
He produced, leading the Buccaneers with 24 goals and finishing second with 35 points and a plus-7 rating.
“I had a coach tell me, ‘If you can score in the USHL, you can score in college hockey,” Mingo said. “And if you can score in college hockey, you can score in the NHL. That motivated me to keep going and keep playing harder.”
That also motivated the Bowling Green hockey program to sign Mingo.
The 5-10, 175-pound forward then ran into another roadblock: The NCAA ruled he was a non-qualifier, which meant he could not practice or play with the Falcons last season.
“I found that out in the summer,” he said. “I was training and skating, and once I heard about that I just shut down. I stopped working out, and I stopped skating.
“I was thinking about going to Adrian, which is a Division III school, so I could play right away. But the coaches talked me into staying here, and that’s what I did.”
Mingo quickly realized that season away from the game would be hard.
“The first game, which was an exhibition — it wasn’t even a conference game, or a regular-season game — I just wanted to leave,” he said. “I hated [sitting out].”
This season Mingo has become a key component of the Falcons’ top line. Playing the left wing with center Ryan Carpenter and right winger Mark Cooper, Mingo is third on the team with eight goals and is second with 19 points in 30 games.
While BG coach Chris Bergeron likes what he has seen from the freshman, he also was quick to point out that Mingo still can improve.
“He’s one of those guys who has so much talent that I don’t know if he’s ever been held to as high a standard as he’s being held to here,” Bergeron said of Mingo. “I’m not being critical of anybody, including Dajon, but I think Dajon is just starting to realize how much talent he has.”
“The sky is the limit for him, both on and off the ice. ... There’s way too much in Dajon to be mediocre.”
It has been a long road, full of ups and downs, but Mingo said the trip from Canton, Mich., to BGSU has been worth it.
“I’ve grown to where I am now,” he said. “I know I need to sharp with whatever I’m doing — whether it’s in the classroom, in a game or in practice.
“Everything I’ve gone through has been worth it.”
HAMMOND OUT: Senior goalie Andrew Hammond will not travel with the Falcons to Ferris State for games today and Saturday against the Bulldogs.
Hammond, who has played in 22 of the team’s 30 games this season, suffered a knee injury in practice last week and did not play when BG split a pair of games against Michigan State last weekend.
"Andrew won't be making the trip with us to Ferris State this weekend and is currently listed as day-to-day,” Bergeron said. “He went on the ice a little bit earlier in the week, and wanted to take a little more time before getting back in the line up."
Tommy Burke — who started both games against the Spartans last weekend — is expected to start today’s contest.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.