Can the Bowling Green Falcons finally take a breath? And will the revolving door of assistants finally stop spinning?
After rumors about the potential demise of the BGSU program were leaked to the press earlier this year — former head coach Scott Paluch heard about them as he was walking into Nationwide Arena in Columbus to see a Blue Jackets game with his son — a much clearer picture of Falcon hockey emerged for fans to see.
A neglected ice system so out of date that replacement parts for it have to be made to order. Grumbling from alumni about Paluch-era hockey. A university that itself appears to be in genuine financial trouble.
Add to that an inconsistency in staffing during the last decade, and it’s no wonder that the Falcons have struggled in recent seasons. More than half a dozen coaches have come and gone at Bowling Green in the last seven years. Interim head coach Dennis Williams, a BGSU alum (1997-2001), served for one year as an assistant under Paluch before landing this gig. He’s hired two new assistants — Mike Mankowski from Canisius and Scott Stirling from Brown. There’s even a new volunteer assistant coach and video coordinator, Doug Slipacoff.
With the constantly changing coaching staff, it wouldn’t be a stretch to liken the current Falcon upperclassmen to kids from broken homes. How can anything stabilize when so few coaches have been there long enough to build anything?
At least the university has committed publicly to the hockey program, having announced in July that $2.5 million in capital improvement funds will be allotted to the Ice Arena, and in September, the university announced a major fundraising drive for hockey itself. All of this helps the hockey players “to focus on hockey and going to school,” said Williams. Until the plan to raise funds was announced, said Williams, “… there were a lot of questions from student-athletes … and rightfully so, wondering what was going on with this program.”
So now can we get back to hockey in BG?
This year’s seniors have 36 wins total in their careers, half of those coming in the 2007-08 season. To put that in perspective, the league’s top team last season, Notre Dame, had 31 wins for the year and sixth-place Northern Michigan had one more victory in 2007-08 than half of that BGSU three-year win total.
In order for the Falcons to be successful, they must have better goaltending. Junior goaltender Nick Eno played just seven games last season because of a bad ankle injury, one year after being named to the CCHA All-Rookie team. Senior Jimmy Spratt tried — and he did shut out the Wolverines in Yost — but he never measured up, ending the season with an .891 save percentage, which was actually the best of his career.
Eno and newcomer Andrew Hammond will “battle it out,” said Williams and “hopefully … make it difficult for us to pick our goalie.”
With eight overall wins in 2008-09 and a 12th-place finish, there’s nowhere for Bowling Green to go but up.