The Falcons tied opponents nine times last season, including six CCHA one-pointers. The near-misses — against opponents as diverse as Lake Superior State, Cornell, Union and Northern Michigan — would be enough to frustrate any team, but BGSU head coach Scott Paluch takes them as signs of improvement. He also takes encouragement for the Falcons’ late-season play.
“Our performance the second half of the year gave us a lot of confidence going into post-season workouts and going into the summer,” says Paluch.
To the casual observer, BGSU’s 11-win season may not seem like progress, but Paluch — who studied at the feet of the master, Jerry York — has pushed the Falcons ahead in just the two short seasons he’s been the skipper at his alma mater.
“Last year’s second half gave us an opportunity to see what happened,” says Paluch. “We were ready at that time to make a little bit more of a mark on the playoffs and that was disappointing. We had a winning home record for the first time in a long time.”
The Falcons dropped two games to Ohio State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, but had split series with Western and Northern going into the last days of the regular season, and had netted five goals against the Wolverines in a two-game series, albeit a losing one.
Paluch says that his team “understands that with a couple more goals scored” the season may have ended differently.
From the moment he returned to Bowling Green, Paluch has stressed an uncompromising work ethic that is starting to pay off.
“Our physical frame — our team is bigger and stronger, combined with a better mental outlook,” says the coach.
“When I first arrived two years ago, our biggest need was to get that foundation of getting the necessary work ethic. As we approached and kind of dissected our team at the end of last year we saw that we improved in so many ways.
“Our mental approach is strong. In our whole locker room right now, I think we have a lot of guys who enjoy what we expect out of them in practice and in games … and also what we expect of them on campus. We demand a lot, but I think we have a lot of guys who enjoyed meeting that challenge.”
Players who have blossomed into mature leaders under Paluch’s tutelage include senior forwards Ryan Minnabarriet (5-11-16) and Alex Rogosheske (2-4-6), as well as senior goaltender and team captain, Jordan Sigalet (2.77 GAA, .919 SV%).
Jordan Sigalet is the centerpiece of this Falcon squad. “I’ve never had a goaltending captain, but if anybody exemplifies what happens off the ice it’s Jordan,” says Paluch. The elder Sigalet — his younger brother, Jonathan, is a sophomore with the Falcons — is everything that Paluch’s looking for in a hockey player: dedicated, a good student of the game, and possessing a never-say-die work ethic.
Sigalet made more saves in league play than any other CCHA goaltender — 31.07 per game — but his ability goes beyond merely stopping a lot of pucks. “He’s equally sharp in games where he sees a lot of chances as he is when he sees just a few, and he’s right on every single night,” says Paluch.
Red or Blue?
“Our challenge, like a lot of teams in our league, because of the goaltending and the quality of teams, is scoring goals,” says Paluch. “We need players to step up in that area, but we feel as a group we have some guys who will produce a little bit more consistently that we had in the past.”
Those who may be among the more consistent this season include Minnabarriet, Rogosheske, Steve Brudzewski (9-8-17), and Brett Pilkington (6-5-11), all upperclassmen.
Add to the mix a talented group of rookies, including Jonathan Matsumoto, who had 63 points in 51 games for the Cumberland Grads in the CJHL, and Alex Foster and Derek Whitmore (both USHL veterans), and Paluch has reason to be optimistic.
“What’s neat about the group [of freshmen] is that of the eight guys, most of them are approaching 20 or are 20 years old. The youngster of the group is Matsumoto. We think he’s going to impact with the ability to make plays and score goals. Alex Foster was a high-profile player for Danville last year.
“Some people may say we have a screw loose, but we were a better team offensively last year.”
As sunny as is Paluch’s disposition, he’s approaching the season realistically. “Our goaltending is extremely solid. We’re so much better defensively … we have to learn how to consistently score goals.
“We have a tremendous cluster with a great challenge ahead of us. Our rivalry partner is a great addition for our program.” Notre Dame is BGSU’s perennial rival, and the cluster includes Michigan and Michigan State. “It’s great for our fans; they’re looking forward to it, and our players are as well.”