BOWLING GREEN — There was a time, albeit a while ago, that the Bowling Green-Michigan State hockey rivalry ranked with about any in the country. Championship programs, national title contenders, All-American players, bigger-than-life coaches, fans hanging from the rafters, yes, this one had it all.
But the Central Collegiate Hockey Association will soon cease to exist. They’re breaking up that old gang of ours. Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State will bolt for a new Big Ten league. Notre Dame is heading for Hockey East. Miami and Western Michigan will be part of a new National Collegiate Hockey Conference along with some high-powered current members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which is also losing a couple marquee Big Ten programs.
The rest of the CCHA, including Bowling Green, and the rest of the WCHA will ally themselves and hope for the best in the fourth best of the new alliances. Is that opinion or fact? Yes.
So, the possibility exists that when Michigan State visits the BG Ice Arena on Friday it will not only be an important game for the improving Falcons, but also the end of an era as maybe the last time the Spartans ever skate here.
The CCHA put mid-majors and majors on equal footing as it related to scheduling. With the forthcoming split, the BGs, Lake Superiors, and Ferris States of the hockey world may not find themselves with the same luxury.
Big Ten teams will schedule Mid-American Conference teams, for example, in football and basketball, but most always on their terms. Hockey may be heading in a similar direction.
BG coach Chris Bergeron had some good news Tuesday. It appears Ohio State, for one, will continue to play the Falcon icers home and away in the future.
“Ohio State has told us that it’s important to them,” Bergeron said. “And I’m hopeful we’ll continue our relationships with Miami and Western Michigan. They’re two of the top five programs in the country right now. Because of that and because of the MAC-level tie-in [with those schools in other sports] it’s almost as important, maybe more so, for us to continue playing them as it would be Michigan and Michigan State.”
As for those schools and Notre Dame, Bergeron doubts his school would enter into any one-way series.
“If they don’t want to come here to play, then my feeling is we won’t be playing,” he said. “But we’ll see how it goes once we all get to new leagues and the dust settles. Hopefully, Michigan and Michigan State will be more receptive. We’ll see.”
The Falcons are more concerned with the present than the future. After some surprising CCHA playoff successes on the road the last two years, BG is positioned to host an opening-round series this season. The home-and-away set with MSU this weekend might have big repercussions in that regard.
BG swept a pair against visiting Lake Superior last weekend, drawing more than 6,000 fans on the weekend. The 4-1 and 7-3 decisions produced the Falcons’ first sweep in league play since 2008, and if they can stretch their home winning streak to six on Friday, it would be the longest since 2005.
BG hockey, mired in an abyss for so long, is on the upswing. There’s no reason to believe it can’t be a major player in its new league. Before that, though, the Falcons want to be factors in their old league and step out in style against some old rivals.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.